Qatar eye clean slate, China, Tajikistan, Lebanon fight for knockout berth

Qatar eye clean slate, China, Tajikistan, Lebanon fight for knockout berth

QLNews
By QLNews

Defending Asian champions and hosts Qatar, who have already qualified for the knockout stages of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, will look to keep a clean slate when they take on China in a Group A match at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.

Meanwhile, China will need nothing short of a win to progress automatically to the next round as the group’s second-best team.

Tajikistan and Lebanon, who both have a point each, should win and also wait for China’s result to entertain any hopes of automatic qualification.

Here is a look at the teams and how they are poised for competition on Monday.

GROUP A
QATAR VS CHINA

Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: Khalifa international Stadium

China head coach Aleksandar Jankovic said it was a ‘privilege’ that his team has their 2023 AFC Asian Cup fate in their own hands as they go into their last Group A meeting with hosts Qatar on Monday knowing a win will take them into the knockout rounds.

Draws against Tajikistan and Lebanon mean a win will guarantee the two-time AFC Asian Cup runners-up a place in the last 16 while a draw could also take Jankovic’s side through to the next phase of the competition.

“So many times you do everything, you play well, and you do well, but you don’t depend on yourself, you’ve to listen and see what’s happening all around,” he said.

“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.”

Jankovic’s team will take on a Qatari side that has impressed so far in the competition, winning both their first two games to not only qualify for the Round of 16 but also seal the top spot in the group with one match remaining.

As a result, coach Marquez Lopez may rotate his squad but Jankovic insisted he will not focus on the identity of the players in the home team.

“I cannot have an impact on the line-up of Qatar, so I’m not concerned about this because it’s over my head. I can do nothing to know which kind of line-up they’ll have and which kind of players they’ll use, it’s up to them. I’m 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,” he said.

Lopez admitted he will make changes to the team, but the Spaniard stressed he did not expect his side's performance level to diminish.

“We’ve great respect for the competition and for this cup. We’re going to enter this game fully aware that we should win, but we’ve to note that we should also do what’s convenient for us, so we’ll use the right players. That doesn’t mean we’re going to amend the formation or use less effective players. We’ve a roster of 26 players, and they’ve a high level of performance. We’ll make some changes, but our main purpose will be to win with the players who’ll play,” he said.

GROUP A
TAJIKISTAN VS LEBANON

Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium

Tajikistan Head coach Petar Segrt is confident of three points when his side faces Lebanon in their last 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group A tie at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Monday.

Both teams secured draws against China and a win for either will boost their chances of advancing into the Round of 16.

Segrt, who has overseen Tajikistan since 2022, expects his team to come out fighting against Lebanon.

“It’s a very important match for both teams. Ahead of the tournament, we were realistic with our expectations, knowing that Qatar is the best team in the group. But this is the final match in the group, and although Lebanon will be tough opponents, we’re equally confident of getting the three points,” said Segrt.

“The Lebanon match is our ticket into the next round, and the players are really motivated to get the first win. We lost some players ahead of the tournament, and now, despite losing Amadoni Kamolov (suspended), we still have others who can step in and fill the role,” he added.

Having missed their chance to secure a win against China, Lebanon’s head coach Miodrag Radulavic believes his players will shine against Tajikistan.

“We’d only one month to prepare, but I believe we’re ready for it.  Tajikistan are very organised, but I believe in my players, and we’re ready to put in one more good performance and achieve a positive result,” he said.

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