Keep it low and move fast. This is the motto the Qatari national team has adopted in this Asian Cup. Despite many have downplayed them to be effective and go far, judging by the first two games, the Annabi are one of the hottest national teams in the competition.
After the hard 2-0 victory over Lebanon in their opening game, the Qataris met North Korea in their second game, and it wasn’t a cheerful occasion for the East Asians.
After eleven minutes it was already 2-0 to Qatar, with Ali Almoez transmitted assists from Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Heydos for a quick brace. Akram Afif was looking for his friends all the time, and on the 43rd minute, he found Boualem Khoukhi, the Algerian-born Qatari, who made 3-0 before halftime.
Enough? Not if you are this generation of Qatari football.
Ali & Afif has continued the second half exactly in the same pace they finished the first one. On the 60th minute, Ali already added two more goals - making it 5-0 and listing a super hat-trick for himself. Ali – who is the first Qatari player to score a hat-trick at the AFC Asian Cup - is the fifth different player to score four goals in an Asian Cup match, together with names as Iranians Behtash Fariba (1980, vs. Bangladesh) & Ali Daei (1996, vs. South Korea); Bahraini Isamel Abdullatif (2011, vs. India); and Jordanian legend Hamza Al-Dardour (2015, vs. Palestine). The last player to score more goals in a single Asian Cup tournament was Korea Republic's Lee Dong-Gook (6) in 2000.
Eight minutes later, Abdelkarim Hassan, Asian Player of the Year for 2018 added another one and concluded the match with a hammering 6-0 for Qatar that guarantees their justified spots in the next round.
But this day wasn’t just about the scorers - Akram Afif assisted four of Qatar’s six goals in this match and has now assisted more goals at the 2019 Asian Cup than any other player.
This was Qatar’s biggest-ever Asian Cup win and DPR Korea’s biggest-ever defeat in the competition.
Qatar attempted six shots on target in this match, scoring every one of them. They also stopped DPR Korea from attempting a single shot on target. In what could tell a lot of the new format of the Asian Cup, it was the fifth time a team has failed to attempt one in a game at the 2019 tournament.
Another Middle Eastern team that played today was Oman of Peem Verbeek, who went head to head with the East Asian giant - Japan.
The beginning was not bad for the Omanis, but on the 28th minute, the Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Izwan made an ambivalent decision and gave a penalty to Japan after what seemed to be a reckless challenge by Reed Saleh.
Oman tried and created chances, but couldn’t convert them into goals. They even almost won a penalty, that again, but the referee bizarrely let Japan go with a clear handball inside the box.
The Omanis now will play Turkmenistan and hope for a good result that will place them among the best 3rd placed teams.