Wild celebrations across Qatar after stunning Asian Cup victory

Qatar's national team received a hero's welcome in Doha after their stunning win over Japan in the AFC Asian Cup final. 

Thousands of fans turned out for a victory parade along Doha Corniche on Saturday night after Al Annabi pulled off a remarkable run of upsets to be crowned champions of Asia for the first time.

In Friday's final at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Qatar beat four-time Asian Cup winners Japan 3-1 thanks to goals from Almoez Ali, Abdulaziz Hatem and Akram Afif. Back in Doha, the extraordinary result created a party atmosphere as fans attended special screenings of the match at Katara, Aspire, Souq Waqif and Sheraton Park.

Qatar were regarded as outsiders for the tournament when it kicked off in the United Arab Emirates on 5 January. They entered the event on the back of promising results but few would have predicted a run all the way to the final, never mind actually winning the event.

But Qatar won all seven of their matches and conceded just a single goal during the tournament. Felix Sanchez's men beat three 2018 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers on route to the title: Saudi Arabia, Korea Republic and Japan. 

They also swept the board in the tournament awards. Ali scored a tournament-record nine goals, including a stunning overhead kick to open the scoring in the final, while Afif notched one goal and ten assists. Ali earned the top goal scorer award and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Saad Al Sheeb was named best goalkeeper after keeping six clean sheets. 

The Maroons achieved all this despite the ongoing political blockade, which meant Qatari fans were prevented from traveling to the tournament. There was a particularly hostile atmosphere during the semi-final against the UAE – but Qatar rose to the occasion by inflicting a thumping 4-0 win on the hosts.

And while Qatar swept all before them in the Emirates, the atmosphere reached fever pitch back at home. The underdog victory over Korea Republic in the quarter-finals raised eyebrows across the continent and meant Qataris started dreaming of claiming a maiden major title. Now that it's been delivered, the whole country is looking forward to a week of celebrations to mark the achievement. 

It also whets the appetite for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, which H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, alluded to when he congratulated the team on Friday night.

He said: "Congratulations to our incredible young national team on making history this evening. Congratulations also to the coaching staff and everyone involved at the Qatar Football Association on this magnificent achievement.

"And thank you to the people of Qatar – both nationals and expatriates – for the unbelievable support shown to the team. We're proud of our unity. And the story is just the beginning." 

In 2022, Qatar will follow in the footsteps of Japan by hosting the FIFA World Cup™ as the reigning champions of Asia. And if the celebrations over the weekend are anything to go by, fans across the globe can expect a fever pitch atmosphere when they travel to Qatar for the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Arab world in less than four years' time.

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