Qatar coach Felix Sanchez has challenged his players to finish the job and deliver history for their nation in Friday’s AFC Asian Cup final against Japan.
Qatar, who had never previously advanced beyond the quarter-finals, have taken the tournament by storm, winning all six of their games while scoring 16 goals and conceding none.
“This is definitely the most important game in Qatar’s football history,” Sanchez said in a press conference.
“We are now obviously at the stage of the tournament where the team is in a confident mood and looking forward to starting the game. Obviously if we win the trophy, it will be Qatar’s biggest achievement in terms of football.”
But Friday’s final pits them against the record four-time winners of the competition and Sanchez knows the biggest hurdle still awaits them.
“The game against Japan is now another story for us. Japan have great quality and have won the AFC Asian Cup many times,” Sanchez added.
“However, we are ready [for the challenge] and will play in a way to negate the threats they have.”
“We know Japan have several strengths and a few weaknesses, so we will need to be excellent throughout the game in order to achieve the win we want.”
Half of Qatar’s goals have come from winger Almoez Ali, who has scored eight in six to match the 23-year-old Asian Cup record of Ali Daei with a match to spare.
Stopping him will be the primary task for Japan if they want a record fifth Asian Cup crown.
They have never lost an Asian Cup final, keeping three clean sheets in four, and in coach Hajime Moriyasu they have a man who was on the pitch as a player in their breakthrough success in 1992.
“Tomorrow as a team we would like to try to take the trophy back home, but I’m not too interested in what it means to me,” the former midfielder said.
“I just want to celebrate the title with all the team and we will do our best in training as well.”
Qatar’s form at both ends of the pitch has been formidable, but Moriyasu is confident Japan can succeed by sticking to the formula which has also brought them six wins from six in this tournament.
“We are aware they are a very strong team, that they have scored 16 goals and kept clean sheets all the way through, but no matter how they play we will stay the same,” he said. “We will analyse them and then we will express our best on the field.
“We are also a team that has reached the final, so I want the players to be confident because of that. We have been developing as a team throughout each game and I want us to show that development on the field tomorrow.”
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