Qatar eyes second round, Lebanon targets first win

Qatar eyes second round, Lebanon targets first win

QLNews
By QLNews

Lebanon, who lost the tournament opening match to Qatar 0-3 at the Lusail Stadium, will be looking to put the setback behind them as they take on China on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hosts Qatar, who will play the day’s second match against Tajikistan, will look to comfortably qualify for the second round with a second win in a row.

Here is a look at the two matches on Wednesday.

GROUP A
LEBANON VS CHINA

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Al Thumama Stadium

Lebanon’s head coach Miodrag Radulovic said it was the grandeur of the atmosphere at the majestic Lusail Stadium that distracted Lebanon in their defeat to Qatar.

But he said his players had put the setback behind them and were raring to register their first win in the Asian event.

“Playing the AFC Asian Cup’s opening match was overwhelming for the team. We made some silly mistakes and gave opportunities to the opposition. But that’s history now, and the competition begins for us with the second match,” said the Montenegrin.

“China is a very balanced team with many experienced players, and we’ve a lot of respect for them. I want to ensure an even rhythm throughout the game, which might entail resting some players and mixing the squad up a bit,” he added.

China’s head coach Aleksandar Jankovic said he also wanted to lead his team to their first win in Doha. However, he chose to keep his cards close to his chest.

“There’re still two matches to go, so there’s no sense in drawing conclusions about qualification chances,” said Jankovic, whose side were held 0-0 by Tajikistan on Saturday.

“Following the analysis of our previous match, we’ve identified some weaknesses as well as positive trends, which we’ll study further and use to the best of our abilities,” he said.

GROUP A
QATAR VS TAJIKISTAN

Venue: Al Bayt Stadium
Kick-off: 5:30pm

Qatar, knowing that a win against Tajikistan could potentially take them through to the Round of 16 with a match to spare, will be keen to do just that.

Friday’s 3-0 win against Lebanon extended Qatar’s AFC Asian Cup winning streak to eight matches — stretching back to their 2019 title triumph. Should Qatar win and the China-Lebanon tie end in a draw, Marquez Lopez’s men would be assured of topping Group A.

“We’re going to enter this match to achieve victory. They’re a difficult opponent, but we’ve studied them and we know they’ve speedy players who can hurt us,” said Lopez.

“We’ve to use all tools we’ve to score as early as possible, but the most important thing is to be prepared and ready for the match. If we win, it’s possible that we win the group then we’ll see who we might get in the next round,” he added.

The win over Lebanon — thanks to an Akram Afif brace and one from Almoez Ali — gave the Maroons a two-point advantage over both China and Tajikistan.

While Qatar is seemingly on course for a second win, they will no doubt be mindful that Tajikistan picked up a 2-1 win the last time the two teams met, in 2012, during an international friendly.

The Central Asian side had shown plenty of heart in their goalless draw with China on Saturday, controlling large parts of the match. Head coach Petar Segrt was confident of another enterprising display against Qatar.

“We respect Qatar as champions and great hosts, but for at least 90 minutes tomorrow, we must put that aside. We’ll try to achieve a good result and make a good impression, to try to get one or three points,” said Segrt.

“It isn’t the character of Tajik people to play defensive. So we’ll try to play our football, but we must also respect that Qatar is stronger than China and they’ll also have supporters behind them,” he added.

The tournament’s only debutants, Tajikistan’s confidence was boosted by the draw against China.  Qatar will do well to exercise utmost caution against them.

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