By Sports Reporter/Jakarta
Qatar ’s Under-23 football team will kick off their campaign at the Asian Games today, with a match against Thailand. Al Anabi, who are in Group B, will play at the 30,000-capacity Pakansari Stadium, west of Jakarta, at 3pm Qatar time.
Spanish coach Unai Melgosa will be without the services of key players Almoez Ali, Akram Afif, Basam al-Rawi and Abdullah Abdulsalam, who will appear for Al Duhail and Al Sadd in their AFC Champions League quarter-finals slated for later this month.
In their absence, Melgosa will pin his hopes on Tamim al-Muhaiz, Tariq Salman, Mohamed al-Bakri, Hazem Ahmed among others. On the eve of the match yesterday, Melgosa was keen to get his formation right in the training.
After the match against Thailand, Qatar will face Uzbekistan Thursday, before finishing their group engagements with a match against Bangladesh on August 19. The top two teams of each of the six groups and the four best third-placed sides advance to the knockout stages.
Qatar defender Ahmed Fadel said the morale in the team was high going into their first match. “Our chances are good,” said Fadel. “The morale of the players is good and everyone is going to give their best during the tournament. We had good preparations in the last few days,” he added.
Meanwhile, midfielder Ahmed al-Saadi, who plays for Al Rayyan said: “The team has many good qualities and is capable of winning the opening match, which is the key to a positive start ahead of Uzbekistan’s clash on Thursday.”
Omar al-Emadi believed there was no pressure on players and that that the team will take on step at a time.
Thailand’s coach Worrawoot Srimaka admitted that his side would face a difficult job in the tournament. “This is a very hard group, Uzbekistan were the champions of AFC U-23 Championship, and Qatar played the semi-final while we could not pass the group stage,” Worrawoot said.
Son min arrives at Asian Games with South Korea
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min landed in Indonesia yesterday as he prepares to play for South Korea at the Asian Games.
Son will be one of three overage players in the under-23 team.
If South Korea win the gold medal, Son will be exempt from 21 months of military service, an obligation he is otherwise expected to start within the next two years.
“Of course our target is gold but it is a long way to get to the final,” Son said on his arrival at Bandung International Airport. “How we approach the game mentally is important. I have thought about the Asian Games a lot.”
Son missed the 2014 Asian Games because he was not released by former club Bayer Leverkusen, and Spurs are hoping for victory this time around to save them from losing Son for nearly two years. South Korea, who will have four members of its World Cup team in the squad, are considered favourites to win the games.
At the World Cup, South Korea were knocked out in the group stage but defeated Germany 2-0, eliminating the defending champions in the process.
“We beat Germany at the World Cup when nobody expected it,” Son said. “Like that, we could lose to other Asian teams here. We have to take each game as it comes, however, and if we don’t give everything in every game then it will be tough.”
Son is not expected to play in his team’s opening group match against Bahrain tomorrow but should be ready to face Malaysia on Friday. The final group match against Kyrgyzstan is on next Monday.
Cho Hyun-woo, who was among South Korea’s best players at the World Cup, has already applied to start his military service in December but could be exempt with a gold medal.
“The World Cup is in the past now and I want to focus on the Asian Games,” Cho said. “We want to show what we are made of and Son told me he just wants to score lots of goals.”
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