Hosts Qatar embrace 'positive pressure' of Asian Cup title defence

Hosts Qatar embrace 'positive pressure' of Asian Cup title defence

February 2, 2024 at 9:20 AM
Akram Afif has scored four times for the hosts Qatar
Akram Afif has scored four times for the hosts Qatar. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP
Source: AFP

Qatar coach Tintin Marquez said Friday they relish the "positive pressure" of trying to retain their Asian Cup title on home soil, on the eve of a quarter-final with Uzbekistan.

The hosts and holders won all three of their games in the group phase without conceding a goal and then defeated Palestine 2-1 in the last 16.

Qatar face Uzbekistan on Saturday in front of what is expected to be a packed crowd at the 68,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium outside Doha.

"For us there is no negative pressure," the Spaniard Marquez, who only took over from Carlos Queiroz as Qatar coach a month before the tournament, said.

"On the contrary, the players are motivated and want to win.

"This is going to be positive pressure for us to win this very important game."

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Saad Al-Sheeb was part of the team that won the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and the goalkeeper sees shades of that triumphant side with the current squad in their camaraderie.

"We live very positively together in the camp, in training, in the relationships we have together," he said.

"We are very close -- more than friends and colleagues, we are like brothers."

Led by livewire striker Akram Afif, who has scored four goals in as many games at the tournament, Marquez said his team was "maybe the fastest" left in the tournament.

Marquez is bracing for "a very physical" encounter against an Uzbek team that is rated by some observers as dark horses for the title.

Srecko Katanec's team reached the last eight with a 2-1 win over Thailand, after which the Slovenian said he was missing five first-choice players because of injury.

Those players will not be back but Katanec hopes that a virus that was in the camp has gone, and said his team "have some qualities Qatar have to be worried about".

"We have been together two and a half years," he said.

"If they don't know how to play by now, something is wrong.

"But I am confident they know -- we need to be organised."

Qatar will be favourites to reach the semi-finals, but Katanec warned: "We have nothing to lose."

AFP photo