Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain and Iraq advance to AFC Futsal Championship 2018 Finals
Bangkok: Lebanon secured a spot in the 2018 AFC Futsal Championship after beating Qatar 3-1 to be Group B winners, which also meant Jordan qualified as the second best team, while Bahrain and Iraq advanced as Group A’s top two on Sunday.
Group B: Qatar 1-3 Lebanon
Coming into the match, Qatar had a slim chance of a top two finish. Not only did they need a win, they had to do so with a three-goal margin to secure qualification.
With a mountain of goals to score against a Lebanon side who had defeated Jordan 3-1, Qatar struggled to keep up with Lebanon's constant attacks in the opening minutes.
It was a matter of time before Lebanon converted their dominance into goal and in the 16th minute, Hassan Zeitoun found an opening after side-stepping two defenders to score from outside the box.
Qatar had a hard time finding opportunities, especially as Lebanon never stopped pressing them whenever they had possession.
Their aim to win with a three-goal margin was further dampened, when Serge Kouyoumjian capitalised on a bad pass from Qatar custodian Abdulrahman Mohsin to reverse the tide and score in the 31st minute to make it 2-0.
With six minutes left, power play was the only option left and Saleh Taha stepped in as their fifth attacking member, finally pushing Lebanon into a defensive position.
But to everyone's suprise, Lebanon retaliated with a power play of their own, giving no leeway to Qatar.
Issa Khalifan Almasoudi put Qatar on the scoreboard in the final minute, but Lebanon scored just seconds later with Zeitoun again finding the net.
Ahmed Rashid: Qatar Head Coach
“Our performance today was much better than yesterday. We focused on their weaknesses but didn't have much chances to score. This is Qatar’s new national team, and the players are young, but they are all equally talented as a team. This is just the beginning for us, and in the future, we will definitely take part in any other tournament and win.
Shahab Sofalmanesh: Lebanon Head Coach
“When your team win, it means your performance is of a high quality. But I’d like to say congratulations to Qatar for bringing such a strong team into the tournament. When we came in, we had two goals. One, to win both games, and two, to qualify, and we achieved it. This qualifiers were good for us because we wanted to find a good combination between our younger and older players, and we succeeded. We will now focus on the 2018 Finals.”
Group A: Iraq 5-5 Saudi Arabia
Iraq understood that a win would mean direct qualification and a draw would leave their fate up to the following match.
However, it was Jwher Zafer who scored in the first 30 seconds to give Saudi Arabia the lead with a cracking strike.
Just moments later, Iraq were awarded a penalty kick after Saudi Arabia’s rough tackle inside the box. Hasan Ali Dakheel took the spot-kick and made no mistake to level the score.
Iraq took the lead in the fourth minute, when Waleed Khalid Fahem set Hussein Abd Ali up for a strike from 15 metres away, and his shot flew into the top left corner to make it 2-1.
Saudi Arabia didn’t decrease the pressure and fought on, but two minutes later, Iraq set off on a counter-attack that sent Zainal Abdeen Abdale surging down the middle alone.
In a one-on-one battle, Zainal beat custodian Abdullah Khatim to extend their lead.
The Saudis were remarkable with their passes and movement around the Iraqi half, and it kept their opponents on their toes
With the amount of possession Saudi Arabia had, it finally resulted in a goal when their passes created space for Mansour Hassan to be in a perfect position to reduce their deficit in the 11th minute.
The game was level once again in the 16th minute, when Mansour pulled two defenders away from the box before passing to Abdulaziz Azmi Alalouni to score from close range.
The deadlock continued welll past the half-hour mark, with both sides playing aggressively, but Saudi Arabia would finally regain their lead when Aroan Nawaf (pictured above, right) scored from inside the box in the 32nd minute.
With six minutes left, Iraq mobilised their power play, but it quickly backfired when they lost possession for Alalouni to fire the ball into an unguarded goalmouth three minutes later.
Ghaith Riyadh found Iraq’s fourth goal in the 39th minute, to bring the score to 5-4.
In the final 20 seconds, Saudi Arabia’s Fahad Abdulmohsen Alshaikh was sent off and they had to play with three men against Iraq’s five.
And with that much advantage, Iraq’s Mustafa Bachay Hamzah scored in the last two seconds, before Moath Mohammed was sent off for misconduct.
Haitham Abbas Bawei: Iraq Head Coach
"The first half we scored three goals, and then I told the players to play forward and press them. We conceded a few goals, but after seeing the progress of the match I knew we had to go power play, as we have trained for it. Saudi Arabia are a good team, with excellent futsal development.
Yves Heremans: Saudi Arabia Head Coach
"I'm sure for the audience it was a good match, but for us we lost. But that's the nature of futsal, that anyone can score anytime. The team did their best. Aroan Nawaf is our best player, and I'm sure he is in the top five in Asia, he has the skills, talent and great teamwork."
Group A: UAE 1-4 Bahrain
Prior to the match, United Arab Emirates needed to win by two goals to qualify as the Group A runners-up but they began on a slower pace compared to their previous matches.
After numerous tries, UAE’s Tariq Abdulla’s shot from the right finally found the back of the net in the 15th minute.
Two minutes later, Falah Abbas Yusuf tapped the ball in with ease to equalise, courtesy of Jassam Saleh Anan’s long range pass into the box.
Bahrain relied mostly on counter-attacks, and three minutes after the break, Mohamed Abdulrazaq, Mohamed Radhi Alsandi and Jassam ran down the middle.
After quick one-touch passes between them, Alsandi took the shot and it deflected off UAE’s Rashid Obaid and into the net to make it 2-1.
With their qualification dreams on the line, UAE opted for the power play in the 27th minute.
Even with the extra manpower, the UAE couldn’t break their opponents' defence.
The power play eventually backfired for the UAE, as Salman Maula Muhammad etched his name on the scoresheet in the 37th minute.
Bahraini goalkeeper Sayed Mohamed Abbas also found the back of the net when his throw landed directly inside an empty UAE goalmouth.
Marcos Sorato: UAE Head Coach
"The team played well, and if there is anyone to be blamed it's me. It was mistake and I'm responsible for the loss. We needed to take the risk of power playing early, but Bahrain are definitely the best team in Group A and they deserve to qualify."
Adel Marzooq: Bahrain Head Coach
"First of all, I'd like to thank everyone from the Bahrain Football Association, to the players and staff that have helped us to reach here. It was a hard game for us, but we did our best and we tried to control the game from beginning to end. I really am happy because this is my first time coaching the national team and we've qualified for the 2018 Finals. We made it!. We've got a few months to practice and we hope to repeat our performance next year."
Photos: Football Association of Thailand