Qatar looks to impress against Palestine at home, Iraq faces Jordanian test

Qatar looks to impress against Palestine at home, Iraq faces Jordanian test

QLNews
By QLNews

Defending champions Qatar will face a Palestinian litmus test when the two teams meet in a Round of 16 match of the AFC Asian Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium on Monday.

Qatar, who progressed from Group A as toppers with an all-win record, will face Palestine, who finished third in Group C and progressed as one of four best third-placed sides.

Iraq, who dominated Group D and progressed with full nine points, will take on a spirited Jordan, who were third in Group E.

With both matches expected to be fiery affairs, here is a look at how the different teams are preparing for the clash.

IRAQ VS JORDAN

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium

Iraq and Jordan are braced for a tough test when they meet in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 match at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.

The Lions of Mesopotamia head into the tie in impressive form, winning all three group stage matches — including against four-time winners Japan — while Jordan advanced as one of the four best third-placed teams. 

Head coach Jesus Casas believes his Iraqi side have the quality to win the title, reminiscent of their triumph in the 2007 edition.

“I think we’re in the same position as in the beginning of the tournament. We’re very confident after three matches. It was amazing to beat Japan. If we want to win the Asian Cup, we’ve to win four more matches. It won’t be easy, as there’re strong teams, but we’re in a good position to win the title. We’ll fight to win this tournament,” said Casas.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match for both teams. Both have undergone challenging qualifications, and we share a similar style of play. We both want to win, and Jordan won’t be easy opponents,” he added.

Despite qualifying as one of the tournament’s four best third-placed teams, Jordan head coach Lhoussanine Ammouta was optimistic about his team’s quarterfinal chances.

“We’ll face a very organised Iraqi team and we’ll try our best to win the match. Our focus is on the responsibilities and duties against Iraq, and we’re determined to secure a victory. Iraq has good players — not only in attack but throughout the whole team,” said Ammouta. 

“However, morale is very high, and everyone is united with big responsibilities on their shoulders. We’ve prepared very well, and our team is ready to give their best effort,” he added.

Jordan have not defeated Iraq in their last five meetings, as well as losing 1-0 in their only previous encounter in the AFC Asian Cup — in the 2015 edition group stage.

QATAR VS PALESTINE

Kick-off: 7:00pm
Venue: Al Bayt Stadium

Qatar’s head coach Marquez Lopez credited his players with the team’s perfect defensive record in the competition ahead of their AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 clash against Palestine.

The 2019 champions are one of two teams in the tournament who have yet to concede a single goal, alongside Thailand.

Qatar’s record since the previous edition has been impressive, having only conceded one goal in their last 10 AFC Asian Cup matches, a Takumi Minamino strike in the UAE 2019 final which the Qataris won 3-1.

This time around, the hosts started their journey with a 3-0 win over Lebanon, then added two more clean sheets in back-to-back 1-0 victories over Tajikistan and China to top Group A and book a date against Palestine.

“There’re no easy games in football, especially in tournaments like this,” said Lopez.

“We’re happy with how we’ve played in the group stage. We were very competitive in every game, there’re small changes to make and improve on, but overall, we played well and tried to give all players an opportunity to play,” added the coach.

“I love attacking football, but we always have to find the right balance between attack and defence. It’s to the credit of the players that we’ve yet to concede a goal, because they implemented my ideas on the pitch very well. I’m thankful to them for absorbing my ideas well and being disciplined,” he said.

In their third appearance in the competition, Palestine were finally able to pick up their first AFC Asian Cup win, an emphatic 3-0 victory over Hong Kong on the final matchday. It helped them finish third in Group C and book their place in the knockout stage for the first time in history.

An Oday Dabbagh brace scored either side of a Zaid Qunbar strike secured the historic win for the Palestinians, and with a new achievement unlocked, head coach Makram Daboub believes his side will play without pressure against a Qatar team weighed down by expectation from the home supporters.

“We’re all united as a team, we’ve a close relationship, and that shows in the way we play on the pitch,” said Daboub. “We’ve been fully focused on qualifying and getting the first win in Palestine’s history in the Asian Cup, not thinking about whether we face Qatar or any other team. It was very important for us to be in the Round of 16, so we were prepared to face any team,” added the coach.

“They’re the home team and will have a lot of fans in the stadium, so there’ll be more pressure on them. We’ve already achieved our primary objective in this tournament, so we’ll play with no pressure. We’ll do our best and play the same way we did in previous matches, keeping our upward trajectory. In 90 minutes of football, anything can happen,” said the coach.

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