Four goals from Almoez Ali helped Qatar cruise 8-1 past Afghanistan in Group A of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 at Khalifa International Stadium yesterday. The reigning Asian champions travel to the Indian state of Odisha where they face the Blue Tigers, while Afghanistan welcome Kuwait in Dammam for their second game of the group.
Qatar coach Carlos Queiroz said after the match his team is already focused for the game against India. “It will be a massive game against India. We start tomorrow to prepare. We need to be at our best to defeat them,” the Portuguese said.
Almoez added: “India will be a stubborn opponent and they’ve improved a lot. It will be tough playing in front of their fans,”
Yesterday, the home team needed just 11 minutes to open their account in the qualifiers through captain Hassan al-Haydos who arrived late in the box, picking up Akarm Afif’s pulled back pass and hammering it low into the back of the net.
Within less than 120 seconds, the Afghans restored parity after Mustafa Azadzoy supplied an excellent through pass for Amiruddin Sharifi who beat the offside trap and applied the finish past goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
Qatar’s response was even faster as left-back Homam al-Amin whipped a cross from deep that was met by the diving header of Ali, who scored his 43rd international goal, moving clear off Mansour Muftah as Qatar’s all-time top scorer.
Al-Amin was again the creator in the 18th minute, this time advancing into the byline and sending a low cross for Mostafa Meshaal who collected it and finished with aplomb to make it 3-1. Before the half-hour mark, al-Amin made it a hat-trick of assists, making an overlapping run and picking up Afif’s pass before finding Ali at the far post and the forward was left with the simplest of finishes for the fourth.
Ali completed his hat-trick in the 32nd minute, powering in from the penalty spot after goalkeeper Ovays Azizi had brought down Afif inside the box. Just before the break, Ali added his fourth of the night following a second penalty as Qatar went into the dressing rooms with a 6-1 lead.
Qatar were awarded a third penalty in the 52nd minute after a challenge on Pedro Miguel. Ahmed Alaeldin stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, adding Qatar’s seventh goal of the game.
Young forward Tameem Muftah, who replaced Ali earlier in the game, added his name to the scoresheet, sweeping home from close range following a cross from al-Amin who made it four assists on the night as Qatar wrapped up an 8-1 victory.
Manvir strike helps India beat Kuwait
Meanwhile, Manvir Singh struck 15 minutes from time to earn India a 1-0 win over hosts Kuwait as Igor Stimac’s side claimed all three points in their Group A opener yesterday. Singh’s first-time strike secured the Indians victory at the end of a keenly contested clash at the Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium, where many in the crowd had turned out to back the visitors.
Mohun Bagan striker Singh showed his ruthlessness to finish off a lightning quick move forward with a clinical strike after Lallianzuala Chhangte’s ball across the face of goal. And the hosts’ problems were compounded deep into injury when Faisal al-Harbi was sent off for a high challenge on Chhangte, effectively guaranteeing Stimac’s side left with the points.
Stubborn Palestine hold Lebanon at bay
Palestine began their quest for a place at the 2026 World Cup with a goalless draw against Lebanon in their Group I World Cup qualifier in Sharjah yesterday.
The match was played at Khalid Bin Mohamed Stadium in Sharjah because of a one-match stadium ban on ‘host’ Lebanon following unruly scenes in their qualifier against Syria in Beirut last year.
But with Palestine also displaced because of the current conflict with Israel in Gaza – they play their first ‘home’ game against Australia in Kuwait next week – the two sides stood for a minute’s silence before the game for the victims killed in Gaza. It was the first meeting between the teams and saw a defensive Palestine largely on the back foot as the Lebanese created the best of the opportunities.
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