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Doha: Coach Felix Sanchez hailed Qatar’s team spirit after the AFC U23 Championship hosts sealed a place in the semi-finals following Friday’s dramatic 2-1 extra-time win over DPR Korea at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

Group A winners Qatar were on course to advance to Tuesday’s meeting with either Korea Republic or Jordan after Akram Afif converted a fifth-minute penalty only for DPR Korea captain So Kyong-jin to convert a stoppage time free-kick at the end of the second half to send the tie into extra-time.

But after Afif provided the assist for Ali Asad to net inside the first two minutes of extra-time, Qatar will return to the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium next week with a place in the final and a first appearance at the Olympic Games since 1992 at stake.

Watch the match highlights

Match report: Qatar 2-1 DPR Korea (aet)

“The players are very satisfied to qualify for the semi-finals because we knew it was difficult to reach it. They are tired and happy,” said Spanish coach Sanchez (pictured) after seeing Qatar maintain their 100% tournament record with a fourth consecutive win.

“I think the team is proud of what they did. It was not easy when it was 1-0 and you concede a goal in stoppage-time. The team showed great team spirit and I think we really deserve what we have achieved against a very powerful team who are difficult to beat.”

And despite being forced to play 120 minutes against a physically demanding DPR Korea, Qatar will enjoy an extra days rest compared to their semi-final opponents, with Korea Republic facing Jordan at Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“It is hard to play against them,” Sanchez continued referring to the strength of the North Koreans. 

“They are physically the best team in the tournament and it is difficult to play against them. 

“I think the team performed quite well as this style of game is not easy to play. I think we had moments when it was not easy and we knew this, especially in the first half, but we got better in the second half,”

“We are in the semi-finals and each game will be very difficult as everyone wants to get to the final and qualify for the Olympics.”

DPR Korea had qualified for the quarter-finals as runners-up in Group B, but Yun Jong-su’s side agonisingly fell short of remaining on course for only a second appearance at the Olympic Games after heroically being denied by Qatar goalkeeper Muhannad Naim twice in the second period of extra-time.

“It was a tough match. Both teams played well, but the only thing was that the players did not live up to the supporters’ expectations,” said DPR Korea coach Yun.

“We also conceded a goal in the first half because we were not organised well in defence. The players played up to my exceptions.

“Qatar is the host team and have many advantages, but I can’t say who will be the champions. As you have seen today, the matches still need to be played and no one can expect anything.”

Photo: AFC