Sanchez plays down favourites tag as Qatar impress
Abu Dhabi: Head coach Felix Sanchez has been quick to play down any notion of Qatar being favourites to win the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 following Thursday’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia which saw his side finish top of the Group E standings.
Almoez Ali scored twice to take his tally for the tournament to an impressive seven, as the Qataris recorded a third successive victory, a run of form that has yet to see them concede.
However, despite the flying start, Sanchez is adamant that Qatar’s impressive record will count for nothing come the knockout phase.
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“I want to congratulate my players for the game against Saudi Arabia,” said the Spanish tactician.
“They showed great team spirit and plenty of quality. It is good for the team to finish first as it helps build confidence going into the next round."
“Nevertheless, we have finished the group stage and now it does not matter if you have three wins or just the one, as it all comes down to just one match going forward.
“Each game is going to be very hard, and we do not consider our favourites as we know our opponents in the next round will be very difficult.”
Qatar, quarter-finalists in 2000 and 2011, are now scheduled to meet Group D runners-up Iraq in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, with Sanchez predicting another tough encounter for his charges.
“We know that our next opponents are one of the strongest in the competition,” he said.
“It’s not that we would prefer to play Iraq rather than someone else as we always play to win the group. it is going to be very tough. We know that we will have to perform well to compete with a well-organised team like Iraq who have talented players.”
Meanwhile, Juan Antonio Pizzi was left to rue the mistakes that cost Saudi Arabia dear on a night when they finished as runners-up to Qatar, setting up Monday’s Round of 16 clash with four-time champions Japan in the process.
“We tried to impose our style of play on Qatar, but our finishing and our ability to make the right decisions at crucial moments were not there tonight,” declared the one-time Chile boss.
“We were good in the first 30 minutes, but an individual error for the first goal and then another mistake from a set-piece saw us concede twice.
“I am just starting to think of the game versus Japan. As I have stated before, I respect all of the teams that are here and do not feel either superior or inferior to anyone. It is now important for us to learn from the mistakes we made against Qatar and perform better when we play Japan.”
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