Hassan al-Haydos is pleased Qatar have defied expectations and proved their critics by reaching the AFC Asian Cup final, with the defending champions to face Jordan at the Lusail Stadium on Saturday.
Indifferent form coming into the tournament had raised doubts about Qatar’s ability to retain the title they won in emphatic fashion in UAE 2019 but al-Haydos and his teammates rediscovered their best at the right time. Marquez Lopez was parachuted in to replace Carlos Queiroz as coach just a month before the tournament, sparking criticism in some quarters. But the Spaniard’s impact has been immediate, leading Qatar to their second consecutive final.
“A month before the tournament, no one expected that we’d reach the final and deliver this performance,” said the 33-year-old captain. “However, working together with the coach and federation, the team is able to reach this level because of the efforts and unity of everyone. I’m very proud to be part of this squad, of this generation of players and those who remained from the 2019 team. Maybe it isn’t as exciting as it was in 2019 but Asian football is transforming and matches will continue to get more difficult.”
Qatar are now one match away from joining Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan as teams who have defended the AFC Asian Cup title and al-Haydos is definite to play a prominent role, having already contributed three goals.
“Being here and sitting here. I’m playing in the final, my team is playing in the final. Many thought we wouldn’t reach the final but we the players, coach, technical team and association - we were well prepared and here we are. The final match will be a difficult one, hopefully we can emerge triumphant.”