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Doha: With two goals and an assist, Hasan Al Haydos provided the spark that belatedly ignited Qatar’s attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia next year as Jorge Fossati’s team earned the country a surprise win over Korea Republic.

Whether it will be enough to qualify the 2022 World Cup hosts for their first-ever World Cup appearance remains in doubt, but the Qataris will at least go into the penultimate round of matches with something to play for.

With two games to go, Qatar sit on seven points, five fewer than Uzbekistan but knowing that wins over Syria and China in their final two games could unlock the path to Russia 2018 via the playoffs.

Al Haydos the difference for lively Qatar

Hasan Al Haydos’ performance on Tuesday evening is the reason Qatar have even the slimmest of chances to go to the World Cup after the Al Sadd man put on a virtuoso performance that saw off Uli Stielike’s side.

It wasn’t just the two goals – including the 74th minute winner after the Koreans had fought their way level through Ki Sung-yueng and Hwang Hee-chan – but it was the all-round performance from Al Haydos that raised the level of those around him.

His opening goal, a sumptuous free kick in the 25th minute, showed his ability from dead ball situations while Akram Afif’s second for Qatar was set up thanks to Al Haydos’ deft passing and vision. 

Al Haydos’s second and Qatar’s winner highlighted his ability to read the game and his understanding with team mate Rodrigo Tabata.

With a passing accuracy of 76.5 percent in the opposing team’s half and with three chances and three shots on target, there can be little doubt the identity of Qatar’s most effective player in one of the team’s best performances in recent years.

Afif plays supporting role in Soria absence

While Al Haydos, rightly, took the majority of the plaudits, this was the game where Akram Afif proved that talk the youngster is the future of the Qatar national team is starting to ring true.

Currently on the books of Spanish side Villarreal and having spent the end of last season on loan at Sporting Gijon, Afif led the attacking line in the absence of the suspended Sebastian Soria in a manner that showed he carries a significant threat up front.

While slight and diminutive, the 20-year-old’s movement, passing and ability to drop deep and work in conjunction with Al Haydos and Rodrigo Tabata gave Korea’s less-than-nimble defence continual problems until he was removed by Fossati with a quarter of the game to go.

By then he had scored a fine goal that saw him link up with Al Haydos, with Afif laying off his pass before running from deep to latch onto his team mate’s return behind the slow-turning Korean backline and then dispatch his finish with aplomb.

Ki experience remains vital for Koreans

While it was a disappointing night for the Koreans as they once again fell short of the standards expected of a nation that has appeared at every World Cup since 1986, Ki Sung-yueng highlighted his continued importance to his team.

While the Swansea City midfielder has not had the best of seasons in the English Premier League, he was the driving force behind Korea’s attempt to haul themselves back into this game and his experience was important, in particular after the loss through injury of Son Heung-min in the 34th minute.

He scored his team’s first goal just after the hour mark, unsettling the Qataris in the process.

But his all-round contribution was solid too. A passing accuracy of 91.7 percent underscored the importance of Ki in the battle to retain possession while his shooting from long range, as he proved with the goal, remains a potent weapon the Koreans will continue to rely on for some time to come.

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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