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MD1 - Group E: Qatar 6-0 Afghanistan

Doha: Almoez Ali bagged a hat-trick as 2019 AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar began their title defence journey with an emphatic 6-0 win over Afghanistan in Group E of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers on Thursday.

A huge crowd at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium greeted the Qatari players in their first home appearance since lifting the Continental trophy in the UAE back in February.

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With a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup already secured as hosts, Qatar set off to begin their AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign in style, and they needed just four minutes to get off the mark.

Making his debut for Al Annabi, 20-year-old Yusuf Abdurisag dribbled down the right flank and delivered a pinpoint cross for Ali who beat the goalkeeper to the cross and headed into the empty net.

Akram Afif led a swift attacking move from the left, and after some intricate passing involving Assem Madibo and Hassan Al Haydos, Afif supplied Ali inside the box and the striker coolly slotted home his 22nd international goal in the 10th minute.

It took just two more minutes for the third goal to arrive and Afif was again the architect, this time squaring for Al Haydos after dribbling down the left. The skipper was left with a simple tap-in to make it 3-0.

With 34 minutes gone, it was the turn of the 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan to add his name to the scoresheet. The left-back romped down the wing on the counter, receiving Afif’s through pass and firing a thunderous drive into the top corner to send the hosts into the dressing rooms with a four-goal advantage.

Felix Sanchez’s side continued their dominance in the second half and within just five minutes of the restart Ali had completed his hat-trick. Substitute Bassam Al Rawi fed the ball to Boualem Khoukhi who backheeled it for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup top scorer who fired with his left from an angle to make it 5-0.

Ali returned the favour in the 67th minute. The forward moved into space behind the Afghan left-back and pulled one back for Khoukhi to sweep home Qatar’s sixth and round off the scoring.

With the result, Qatar top the group with three points, goal difference putting them ahead of Oman.

Al Annabi welcome India to Doha on Tuesday while Afghanistan’s next game takes place in Tajikistan where they play hosts to Bangladesh.

Photos: AFP

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