Qatar’s fighting performance ‘reassuring’, says striker Ali

Qatar’s fighting performance ‘reassuring’, says striker Ali

Striker Almoez Aliin action during Qatar’s opening match of Copa America against Paraguay on Sunday.

Feared striker Almoez Ali yesterday said Qatar’s fighting performance in their Copa America debut against Paraguay was ‘reassuring’.

Trailing 2-0 after the first 54 minutes, Qatar on Sunday produced two stunning goals – one from Ali and the other by Bualem Khoukhi – to share points with former Copa champions.

Ali, who guided Qatar to Asian Cup title win with nine goals in February this year, curled in a spectacular swinging shot in the 68th minute at the Maracana Stadium. Khouki fired one nine minuets later as Qatar picked up a point in their Group B clash of the 12-team tournament.

“Our performance was reassuring. We have to be happy and rejoice especially after what we achieved in the second half. That fight showed we will be ready for the next game and it will be better,” Ali said ahead of Qatar’s match against Colombia.

The match will kick off at 12.30am Qatar time tomorrow.

Coached by Felix Sanchez, Qatar squad arrived in Sao Paulo from Rio De Janeiro after creating a buzz for football fans following the 2-2 draw against Paraguay.

“The first clash was not easy. We learned a lot from this match at this big tournament. We were surprised by the strength of Paraguay at the beginning of the first half when we conceded an early goal. In the first half we got several chances to equalise but we were not able to do that,” he added.

“However in the end it was a positive result for us as in the second half the situation was different. We exploited the chances we got and scored.

“We could have score more but we missed a few chances,” Ali added.

After conceding two goals, Qatar hit back with a special strike of their own as Ali’s shot from the corner of the 18-yard box took a nick off a defender’s foot and arched over keeper Fernandez into the top corner, drawing cheers from the sparse crowd inside the Maracana stadium. Shortly afterwards the Asian champions were level 13 minutes from time after opening up the Paraguay defence with a slick passing move. Akram Afif slipped in Algerian-born Khoukhi, running in at an angle between full-back and center-back, who ended up with a plucky finish.

Ali said Qatar will take the 2-2 draw and turn their attention to Colombia. On June 23, Qatar face Argentina in the last Group B clash.

“We are participating in this tournament for the first time. Copa America is a very tough tournament in which the teams are mighty strong. The Paraguayans scored their first goal very early in the game, but we did not give in. After that, we regrouped progressed with two quick goals,” Ali said.

Defender Bassam Al Rawi said Al Annabi were close to winning but wasted opportunities to score against Paraguay.

“I would like to applaud all the players for their good performance at the beginning of this tournament. This shows that our team is not attending Copa America for appearance sake, but to prove that we are the Asian champions,” Al Rawi said.

He added that the players were ready to make a deliver a strong fight against Colombia.

“What really pleased me is our fighting spirit. That showed confidence the players have despite conceding two goals,” Al Rawi said.

Midfielder Asim Madibo said: “I think we could have come out with three points. In the second half we took control of the game as we made a lot of chances to score but we wasted them.”

He added: “I think the first goal we conceded early in the penalty kick completely confused our calculations, but we managed to come back again. We will continue to play against Colombia and avoid mistakes we made in the first game. Our next game won’t be easy because the Colombian team is very strong. Their style of play has changed a lot with coach Carlos Queiroz, but we can get out and do well again.”

Qatar midfielder Ahmed Fathi said: “Playing at the Maracana gave players a motive to offer their best. We are sad with the draw after we played an excellent game and we deserved to win. We have to relax a bit and then think about Colombia. I’m confident Qatar can play a good game. We have great aims at this tournament since we are the Asian champions.”

Ali said playing at the Maracana Stadium was a big delight for the squad.

“We are proud to participate in this tournament and play in a historic stadium such as the Maracana Stadium, which is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. We have to take advantage of this tournament and increase our experience. This tournament is an important part of our preparation as we move towards the 2022 World Cup,” striker Ali said.

Coach Sanchez said on Sunday: “It’s a fair result, we deserved the point we gained.”

He later praised the players for “keeping the faith” and “showing the desire to go after the game, that was the most positive thing for us.”