Defending champions Qatar will be targeting their third successive win when they take on China today in their last Group A clash of the AFC Asian Cup.
Qatar, coached by Marquez Lopez, have posted wins over Lebanon (3-0) and Tajikistan (1-0) in the first two matches in Group A of the 24-team tournament.
With their win over Tajikistan at Al Bayt Stadium last week, Qatar secured a spot in the last 16.
Rivals China, ranked 79 on the FIFA computer, have played two goalless draws against Tajikistan and Lebanon.
“We’re going to enter this game fully aware that we should win, but we have to note that we should also do what’s convenient for us, so we will use the right players,” Qatar coach Lopez said yesterday at a pre-match news conference.
“We will make some changes, but our main purpose will be to win with the players who will play,” the Spaniard, who took over as coach a little over a month ago, added.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to amend the formation or use less effective players. We have a roster of 26 players and they have a high level of performance,” he said without disclosing which of the players may sit out today at the iconic Khalifa International Stadium.
Lopez, who was managing Al Wakrah in the Qatar Stars League before his shock call-up to take over from Carlos Quieroz last month, said Qatar will use the same attacking game they employed against Lebanon and Tajikistan. Qatar’s key striker Akram Afif has so far found the net three times with Almoez Ali also making an impact in the first two matches.
Exuding confidence ahead of their crucial Asian Cup clash, China coach Aleksandar Jankovic called it a “privilege” to control their own destiny. With a win against hosts Qatar today, the Dragons will roar into the knockout rounds. History shows China have beaten Qatar three out of four matches in the AFC Asian Cup. Qatar beat China in 2011 (2-0 in the group stage).
“So many times you do everything, you play well and you do well but you don’t depend on yourself, you have to listen and see what’s happening all around,” Jankovic said at a news conference yesterday. “It’s a privilege before the last game of the group stage that everything depends on you. It’s a privilege for a sportsman that he can decide his own destiny and that’s a clear message. And that’s why I say it’s a privilege because we depend on ourselves,” he added. Jankovic said he is not reading much into the prospect of Qatar ringing changes for the match today.
“I will prepare for the game, the way of playing will not change. I am focused on ourselves, on our way of playing, how to defend, how to attack, exploring spaces and weaknesses that every team has, Qatar also, and how to win the game,” Jankovic said yesterday.
“I cannot have an impact on the line-up of Qatar, so I’m not concerned about this because it is over my head,” he said. “I can do nothing to know which kind of line-up they will have and which kind of players they will use, it’s up to them. It’s very simple: it’s 11 v 11 on the field, 90 minutes, win the game to go through, don’t look around, don’t follow other results, don’t look at other groups, don’t look at the other game. It’s very, very simple,” he said.
Lopez said his side is thrilled to be competing on home soil in what is the biggest and most widely followed continental football tournament.
“We have great respect for the competition and for this Cup,” Lopez said. “A game in a championship such as the Asian Cup is a big motivation for any player, to go out and win and put in an excellent performance.
“We know there will be 40,000 or 50,000 Qatari fans wanting to enjoy their team winning. It will not be a walk in the park.
“We will be there to compete and play respectfully against our rival and to give the best image to the fans of their team,” Lopez added.
Qatar coach Marquez Lopez listens to a question during a news conference in Doha yesterday.
Qatar players line up before one of the two matches they have played at the AFC Asian Cup 2023. Qatar face China today.
China coach Aleksandar Jankovic answers a question at a separate press conference.