Asian Cup final: Hosts Qatar target trophy retention as Jordan eye shock triumph

Qatar are out to defend their Asian Cup crown after defeating Iran 3-2 in a dramatic semi-final — but they will have to overcome an unlikely opponent. 

Jordan, after a historic semi-final win over South Korea, are hoping to pull off a miracle in their first ever final in this tournament. 

Ahead of what promises to be a fascinating encounter, we’ve enlisted the help of Twenty3’s Toolbox to preview the game.

Structured Qatar

Qatar’s success in the Asian Cup has been based largely on a solid defensive structure. 

Tintin Marquez’s side have completed 125 successful defensive actions per match, the second-highest at the tournament. 

They have also made the fourth-most successful ball recoveries (98.5) per 90 at the Asian Cup.

Such a tight defensive unit has resulted in Qatar conceding just four goals in six games, two of which came in the semi-final against Iran. 

Lucas Mendes is a key figure at centre-back for the reigning champions.

The left-footed defender has played 580 minutes and has been the catalyst for Qatar’s consistently strong displays. 

Mendes is among the tournament’s frontrunners for ball recoveries per 90 (12.1) and successful aerial duels per 90 (5.59).

Meshaal Barsham is also a calming presence between the sticks for Qatar. 

The goalkeeper has kept two clean sheets at the tournament and has made 2.77 saves per game. 

Qatar will need to maintain their defensive resoluteness for one more game if they are to win back-to-back Asian Cups.

Adventurous underdogs

Jordan’s unexpected progression to the final has been one of the stories of the tournament.

The Middle-Eastern nation had never gone beyond the quarter-finals before this year’s Asian Cup.

The catalyst behind this run has been a productive attack — Houssaine Ammouta’s side have scored two goals per game and proved against South Korea that they can continue this trend against the very best opposition.

Jordan are an extremely direct side in possession and have completed 13.83 dribbles per 90 — the fifth-most in the tournament. 

The West-Asian outfit have also made 12.17 progressive runs per match, often choosing to drive forward with the ball rather than building up from the back. 

If Jordan are to pull off a miraculous victory, their potent attack will have to come up trumps once again.

Players to watch

Both nations have attacking players that could be difference-makers in Lusail. 

Qatar will be looking towards their star man Akram Afif to come up with the winning moment. 

The 27-year-old has scored five goals at the Asian Cup— only bettered by Iran’s Aymen Hussein (6). 

He is also a creative force, providing the most assists out of any player at the tournament (3). 

The striker proved in the semi-final that he can step up when it matters most, registering another goal and assist as Qatar overcame Iran.

Jordan also possess some firepower of their own in Yazan Al-Naimat.

The striker has scored three goals at the tournament, including the crucial opening goal against South Korea last time out. 

Musa Al-Taamari — another key creative figure for Jordan —  found Al-Naimat with a defence-splitting pass and the forward chipped the ball over the goalkeeper with superb composure. 

Al-Naimat will have to be at his ruthless best if Jordan are to secure a shock triumph.

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