Gamble pays off to leave Qatar on verge of Asian Cup glory again

Gamble pays off to leave Qatar on verge of Asian Cup glory again

© AFP 2022
February 8, 2024 at 8:32 AM
Tintin Marquez has led Qatar to the Asian Cup final despite taking over only one month before the tournament began
Tintin Marquez has led Qatar to the Asian Cup final despite taking over only one month before the tournament began. Photo: Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
Source: AFP

Qatar took a big gamble replacing coach Carlos Queiroz with Tintin Marquez just one month before the Asian Cup but they are now one win away from retaining their title.

The hosts booked their place in Saturday's final against Jordan after beating Iran 3-2 in a breathless semi-final in Doha on Wednesday.

Spaniard Marquez only started working with the squad in late December but a decade-long association with Qatari football meant he hit the ground running.

Now they are on the verge of a second straight Asian title after the disappointment of a first-round exit as World Cup hosts in 2022.

Marquez said "the road has not been easy" and credited the players for helping him along the way.

"The players have implemented my instructions, my philosophy and my ideas on the pitch and they deserve my thanks," said the 62-year-old.

"We have one final step left in order for us to accomplish our desired objective."

Qatar won the Asian Cup for the first time in 2019 under another Spaniard, Felix Sanchez, who stayed on to lead the team into the World Cup on home soil.

They lost all three games, the worst record of any World Cup host in the competition's history.

Queiroz came in after Sanchez left and results were mixed, with Qatar losing 4-0 to Iran in the final of a friendly tournament in Jordan in October.

Former Real Madrid boss Queiroz departed two months later and Qatar football chiefs turned to Marquez to replace him.

Captain Hassan Al-Haydos was reported as saying after beating Iran on Wednesday that "everyone came together" when Marquez took over.

'Help him to help me'

Marquez was a player and coach for Espanyol in his native Spain and also had a stint in Belgium.

He worked at Qatar's Aspire Academy earlier in his career before returning to the country in 2018 to spend almost six years in charge of domestic side Al-Wakrah.

The distinctive hairstyle that earned him the nickname "Tintin" after the comic book character has long since gone, but his knowledge of Qatari football is stronger than ever.

"I tried to implement my own ideas, my own philosophy, but we can't say that I changed everything," he said.

"Every manager has his own style and what I simply tried to do was convey my ideas to the players.

"At the end of the day, I have great respect for all those who came before me."

Marquez used all 26 players in his squad in a group phase that saw Qatar win all three games without conceding a goal.

They then saw off Palestine 2-1 in the last 16 before coming through on penalties in their quarter-final against Uzbekistan.

Forward Akram Afif has been Qatar's star man, scoring five goals including a sublime curler in the semi-final win over Iran.

Marquez worked with Afif earlier in his career and the player said he was comfortable with the coach's methods.

"I try my best to help him to help me," said Afif.

"As players we need to respect the coach's decisions. We are one family and we support each other."

Qatar were not considered among the front-runners for the title heading into this year's Asian Cup.

The late coaching change made them even more of an unknown quantity, but they are favourites against a Jordan team contesting their first final.

"The players did not spare any effort tonight," Marquez said after beating Iran.

"Now we have one final step left in order for us to defend our title."

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© AFP 2022 photo
© AFP 2022