Doha, Qatar – Qatar coach Bruno Metsu says his team finally showed their true colours by beating China at the Asian Cup and is confident they can push on and make the knockout rounds for only the second time ever.
The Qataris were poor in their 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan in their opening match when they succumbed to the pressure of playing in front of 37 000 expectant home fans and a host of top-level dignitaries.
But they pulled themselves together yesterday evening with Yusef Ahmed scoring twice to help restore the country’s pride.
It was a badly needed morale boost for a nation that will host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, and their fate is now firmly in their hands.
They have three points in Group A, alongside China, with Uzbekistan on six points and Kuwait with none.
If they beat Kuwait on Sunday and China either lose or draw with the Uzbeks, then they will be through to the knockout rounds.
In seven previous appearances at the tournament, they have only got that far once before – in 2000, when they made the quarterfinals.
Frenchman Metsu, whose job could have been at stake if they had lost to China, was delighted Qatar were finally able to do themselves justice.
“We wanted to show the real face of our team and the players have done that. They have shown their potential and I’m very proud of their performance,” he said.
“We will try to do the same against Kuwait and qualify for the next stage.”
Qatar were buoyed by a near-capacity crowd at the Khalifa Stadium and Metsu encouraged the fans to continue their support, saying the team was nothing without the fans.
“It was a good message for our people,” he said of the victory.
“I think the fans were very satisfied. I hope the fans come back again for the Kuwait game. Their support was fantastic. It was beautiful and gives more hope for the players. We can only win something with the fans. We can’t do it without them.”
Ahmed struck a glorious goal at 27 minutes to put his side in front, cleverly controlling a high ball before volleying it into the top corner.
With the nation watching, the 22-year-old doubled their lead on the stroke of half time, dealing a demoralising blow to a young Chinese side that beat Kuwait 2-0 in their opening match.
“We did our best to get a 2-0 lead in the game against China. After taking the lead, we faced a tough situation as China went on the attack as they tried to get back into the game,” said Metsu.
“We missed several chances but I’m happy that we created these chances. I hope that we can create such chances in the next game and that we can take the pressure off our shoulders against Kuwait.”
With all four sides in the group still capable of qualifying for the last eight, Metsu spelt out the task that faces his team on Sunday.
“The situation is complicated but we have no choice other than to win the next game,” he said.
“China can win and Uzbekistan will try their best to win to secure first place in the group, but if we want to advance, we must play to win as we did on Wednesday.”