Al Haydos revels in Qatar's finest hour
Abu Dhabi: Qatar captain Hasan Al Haydos was elated at his side's stunning 3-1 win over Japan in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Final on Thursday, declaring he had emerged from the biggest competition of his career as a champion.
The 28-year-old labelled the decider at Zayed Sports City Stadium as the biggest game in his life, and goals to Almoez Ali, Abdelaziz Hatim and Akram Afif ensured he finished it from at the top of the Asian football mountain.
Speaking after becoming the first player in history to hoist the new AFC Asian Cup trophy, Al Haydos revealed his delight to the-AFC.com.
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"Praise be to God. I think this was the most important game in my life, in the most important tournament of my footballing career," he said.
"Of course, I want to thank the boys, who were great throughout the tournament, the coaching staff and the management, all the officials in Qatar.
"I think everyone had confidence in us from the start. We didn't disappoint them and we are returning to Doha with the Cup."
Al Haydos has enjoyed continental success before, playing a supporting role in Al Sadd's AFC Champions League final win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as a 20-year-old in 2011.
Until now, that had been the most significant prize in his career, but Qatar's on-field leader believes that achievement has been well and truly surpassed by claiming the biggest prize in all of Asian football.
"Frankly, there's a big difference (between the Asian Cup and AFC Champions League)," he said.
"Winning a championship with the national team has a different emotion to it. The happiness is there for everyone in the country."
Meanwhile, Al Haydos' Al Sadd teammate and Qatari left-back Abdelkarim Hassan described Qatar's achievement as a dream come true.
Hassan entered the competition fresh from winning the 2018 AFC Player of the Year, and his stock continues to rise with each performance, but the 25-year-old said, for now, nothing can top becoming an Asian champion.
"For me, this achievement is enough," he declared. "It is everything as I am part of this historic achievement for the nation.
"To be honest, it is a feeling that I don't know how to describe. It is as if we are in a dream but praise be to God, the dream has become reality."
Qatar won all seven of their matches in UAE 2019, having previously registered just six AFC Asian Cup wins in their history, and having finished with zero points in the 2015 edition in Australia.
Now, an unprecedented string of successes has taken the nation to Asian football's promised land, prompting a visibly delighted Hassan to pay tribute to his teammates.
"I want to congratulate the Qatari people and my teammates on achieving this historic triumph for the nation on the Continental level," he said.
"I also want to thank my teammates for their massive efforts today, especially as Japan are a strong team, as you saw from the pressure they put us under but I want to thank the players for enduring that pressure and being determined throughout the 90 minutes."
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