Qatar ready for ‘hard’ game of football against Iraq
January 22 2019 01:00 AM
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Almoez Ali
Raring to go: Asian Cup top scorer Almoez Ali (second from left) poses with his teammates during a training session in Abu Dhabi yesterday. At bottom, coach Felx Sanchec and player Ali Afif attend a pre-match press conference.

Agencies/Abu Dhabi

Coach Felix Sanchez said Qatar will ‘play hard’ football in their AFC Asian Cup last 16 clash against 2007 champions Iraq today. Qatar stormed into the last-sixteen of the 24-team tournament on the back of three straight wins against Lebanon, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“We will play hard,” Sanchez said in a pre-match press conference. “Our aim is to win and to do that we have to play our best because our opponents are strong,” the Spaniard added.
“Our team is riding high on confidence. This is like the final. To win the match is our goal,” Sanchez said.
“It was wonderful to see the team win three matches while playing quality football. But now we forget those results because to ensure we emerge victorious, we must start afresh. We will do our best. Iraq has talented players and for us to qualify for the next stage, we must win this match,” Sanchez said.
“We have been working hard for a long time. We have a great group of gifted players who work as a one unit. This was our method in previous matches – to play as a unit and give our best.
“We also played strong teams in friendly matches in the last few matches. We played against Ecuador, Switzerland, Iceland and many other teams. That gave us match practice and the experience we needed to get the players ready,” Sanchez said.
“We have had enough time to rest and be ready for this match. It is difficult to win in all games of the championship in general but we were able to achieve this because we stuck to our plans. We intend to repeat that against Iraq also. We will have the same approach that we had against all our three rivals (in the first stage),” he added.
As for playing against Iraq, another Arab side after beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 in their last game, Sanchez said yesterday: “Opponents cannot be chosen. You play whom you get to face. Any opponent will have a tough time. Iraq is a strong team with a distinguished group of players. We look forward to playing to win to qualify for the quarter-finals.”
Reacting to praise from Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho on Thursday after Qatar beat Saudi Arabia, Sanchez said: “Of course it is very nice to hear such words. We feel good to have the praise of a great coach like Mourinho. It was a great game against Saudi and we enjoyed our win.”
Meanwhile Qatar will put in a 100 percent effort for a win in their last 16 clash against Iraq, forward Ali Afif said.
“It is an important match since we will be playing a strong outfit in Iraq. But let me tell you, Qatar players are ready. We topped our group and won against everybody. All players are confident,” Afif said.
“We know they are a tough side but we are ready with our confidence high,” he added.
“Our team has a great bunch of young players and they have to be patient to have a promising future.” 
“You can see the seriousness with which the players play. They play to win and improve. That’s to their advantage since they want to play for Qatar for long,” he said.
On the technical level of the two teams, Afif explained: “The two teams have the elements capable of making a difference. That makes for an interesting clash. We are meeting a team that has done well in this tournament.”



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