By Sports Reporter/Doha
Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez expressed his happiness after his side’s dramatic 2-1 win over Oman secured the hosts a place in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Arab Cup at the Education City Stadium on Friday.
The Group A match appeared to be drifting towards a draw, before Qatar snatched a last-gasp winner. Substitute Fahmi Durbin attempted to clear a dangerous cross off Qatar striker Akram Afif, but the Omani defender saw his header hit the crossbar and bounce down behind the goal line.
Play continued for 30 seconds before Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio confirmed the ball had crossed the line after VAR advice. Afif had put Qatar ahead with a penalty before Oman equalised in the 73rd minute, with Khalid al-Hajri scoring through a header.
“It was a very difficult match against a strong team, but in the end we managed to achieve a crucial victory,” said Sanchez. “After this result, we are the first in the group, which is amazing for us but we have one more game. We have to play well to make people proud of the team. It is very nice to see the fans happy today. The two teams played a good match today, and we had the advantage in the first half, but we faced difficulties in the second half,” the Spaniard added.
The coach praised his players, pointing out that they had shown great commitment and highlighted their “fighting spirit”, which allowed them to score the winning goal in the last moments of the match. Sanchez said: “Things do not end with the victory today. We have to prepare for the next game (against Iraq), as well as, of course, the quarter-final match.”
Qatar’s will face the second-placed in Group B in the quarter-finals, irrespective of their result against Iraq in the final group game tomorrow. UAE are Group B leaders with six points but even they are not assured of a knockout spot, while favourites Tunisia (three points) suffered a shock loss to Syria on Friday. Tunisia take on UAE in the final group match while Syria (three points) face Mauritania, who are yet to open their account.
Sanchez said his team would prepare for a tough game, irrespective of who they face in the last eight. “We cannot choose our opponent. Any team reaching the quarter-final will be strong, not just Tunisia. Whoever our rivals are, we’ll fight hard to continue in the competition,” he said.
On defender Pedro Miguel, who went off in the first half against Oman after picking up an injury, Sanchez said: “We’ve to check how he feels. He had some discomfort. We’ll analyse the situation and take a call. He’s an important player, let’s hope he can rejoin us soon,” said Sanchez.
The Qatar head coach hinted at making changes to the playing XI for the Iraq game and rest some regulars. “Whoever we field, our aim will be to win the match. We’re professionals and representing Qatar, we go into every game with the aim of winning,” he said.
Oman coach Branko Ivankovic said he was happy with the team’s performance, but questioned a few of the referee’s calls including a penalty awarded to Qatar for a foul on Afif. “In my opinion, it wasn’t a penalty. Also I felt Qatar’s No 15 (Bassam al-Rawi) deserved a red card for an off-the-ball foul on my player. VAR needs to look into these things,” he said. “I cannot complain about my players. They were fully concentrated. Just as against Iraq, they didn’t deserve what happened to them today.”
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