The world was watching the magnificent Lusail Stadium once more as it hosted a momentous Asian Cup final between hosts Qatar and Jordan. The two were playing for the first time. Qatar managed to retain its title.
In an all-Arab AFC Asian Cup 2023 final on Saturday, Qatar prevailed 3-1 thanks to three penalty kicks from the nation’s favorite football player. Akram Afif was also the tournament’s best performer.
After the host nation defeated Lebanon 3-0 at the same location to start their Asian Cup debut last month, they were among the favorites, but not by much.
However, they depart Lusail as the continent’s greatest player, thanks to star player, having won back-to-back titles—a first since Japan’s victories in 2000 and 2004.
Jordan’s loss in the final leaves them heartbroken but with their spirits high following an incredible run in the competition that brought them to their historic final.
An-Nashama was nervous going into the game and felt the weight of their devoted supporters’ expectations. They were unable to finish movements and pass the ball to Yazan Al Naimat and Musa Tamari, their strike force.
They soon paid a price for their bad start when, halfway through the first time, Qatar was granted a penalty and Afif’s captain, Hassan Al-Haydos, gave him the ball. Without missing a beat, the eleven rolled down his sock to reveal a card bearing the letter S, a joyful gesture.
Afif subsequently said that his goal celebration, which was unusual and generated controversy on social media, was a tribute to his spouse, whose name starts with the letter and whom he attributes his accomplishments to. “I chose to dedicate it to her because it was her first time watching me inside a stadium,” he said to confused reporters after the event.
Second Half; A Double Afif Turn
Halftime saw Jordan return with a much-improved team. Encouraged by their boisterous fans, the players started displaying glimmers of their offensive ability. Al Naimat scored the equalizing goal as a consequence, and it looked like there would be a thrilling last thirty minutes to the match.
The ball quickly found its way back into Jordan’s half, but his clumsy defense allowed another penalty to be given. Afif fulfilled his duty by scoring the goal that assured him of winning the Golden Boot for the tournament.
The Jordanian players and their supporters appeared unable to cope with the sudden turn of events and the result. The crowds in Qatar rejoiced in shock when their loud chanting suddenly stopped.
The coach of Jordan subsequently identified the second penalty as the reason his team fell well behind the hosts. “The timing of the penalties was crucial and they didn’t allow us to make a comeback,” he stated in his post-match press conference.
Ammouta, who had defeated Jordanians in a few of weeks, claimed that the players’ performances may have been affected by stress from their friends, family, and social media supporters. “I was afraid that these things would affect their mental health during the game, but I can’t take away their phones and tablets and tell them they can’t talk to people.”
During the game, al-Annabi received heartfelt hugs and the winners’ medals from Qatar’s Emir. There was a little pause when it came time to present the trophy to Al-Haydos, the victorious captain. In Lusail, what prize presentation would be complete without a bisht in black and gold? Before giving his captain the glittering prize that has never left Qatar, the emir assisted him in donning the now-famous cloak.
The tournament’s top honors were taken home by Al-Haydos, Afif, and Qatar’s hero in goal, Meeshal Barsham, who also made sure the trophy stayed in the country for not less than four more years.