QATAR coach Jorge Fossati had described their do-or-die World Cup qualifier against South Korea as a “new scenario” and promised that the prevailing political situation in the region would “motivate” them. His players proved his words right and won 3-2 to keep their thin hopes alive.
It was a perfect team performance by the home side, yet Al Sadd forward Hassan Al Haidous stood out as he netted twice (25th and 75th), on either side of an Akram Afif effort (51st) to give his team their second win in the final round.
South Korea came from two goals behind to level the scores through Ki Sung-Yueng (62nd) and Hwang Hee-Chan (70th), and put the hosts under pressure, but they were let down by poor defensive work.
The win saw Qatar increase their tally to seven points and climb to fifth in the six-team table. They need to win the two remaining games, against Syria (away) and China (home), and hope for favourable results from elsewhere to make it to the finals through play-offs.
After falling behind, South Korea needed a match-winning performance from in-form Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-Min, but he pulled out soon after the half-hour mark, injuring his right forearm and dealing his team-mates a mental blow.
The Taeguk Warriors still created a lot of chances, especially in the second half, but failed to capitalise on their chances.
Uli Stielike’s men are yet to win an away game in the final round and the latest reversal has pushed the German coach’s job on to the brink.
“I take the responsibility for the defeat. Obviously, you’ll have questions about my job, but it isn’t my decision,” said the German.
His Qatar counterpart Fossati had spoken about his plans to step down after the game, but the Qatar Football Association will have second thoughts and might insist him to continue. For once, he got his formation, tactics and everything spot-on against the World Cup regulars.
In striker Sebastian Soria’s absence (suspension), the Uruguayan started with a 5-1-2-2 formation, with Al Haidous and Akram moving along the wings and Rodrigo Tabata and Ali Asad, who both had an impressive game, operating behind them through the middle. It worked for him. Qatar suffered physically as the game neared its end, but they stayed strong to pull it off, with spirit being the hallmark. DSP