Ali Magic as Qatar Shock Japan to Win First Asian Cup

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Qatar surprised Japan 3-1 to win its first Asian Cup on Friday, sparked by a moment of magic breaking the Almoez Ali records and after the dramatic drama.

Sudan-born striker Ali scored with an acrobatic bike kick after just 12 minutes before Abdelaziz Hatim curled in a magnificent second and Akram Afif converted a VAR-assisted penalty to give the 2022 World Cup a famous victory in Abu Dhabi

Qatar survived a 2-0 scare when Takumi Minamino made a 69-minute throwback, only for Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov to award a penalty to the Maroons for a handball from Japan captain Maya Yoshida.

Ali became the first player to score nine goals in a single Asian Cup, after receiving authorization to play only a few hours before the start of the match after a protest from the UAE about his eligibility.

The Qataris had been thrown with plastic bottles and shoes during the 4-0 semifinal of the hosts of the United Arab Emirates for the Gulf blockade in the tiny energy-rich state.

UAE football officials subsequently filed a formal protest for the eligibility of Ali and Iraqi-born defender Bassam Al-Rawi, who was expelled by the Asian Football Confederation.

Qatar had never gone beyond the Asian Cup quarter-finals before, but scored 16 unanswered goals to reach the final and maintained a record of six clean sheets.

Japan, meanwhile, had never lost an Asian Cup final, winning the last of its four record titles in 2011.

But the Blue Samurai was soon reduced by Ali’s overwhelming starter, surpassing him with the eight-goal record of the legendary Iranian Ali Daei in the 1996 tournament.

Cleverly found by Afif, Ali threw the ball to himself before throwing himself into a volley that left Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda helpless as he flew out of the post.

Ali almost scored again in a minute, only to be denied by a desperate Yoshida block.

However, Qatar doubled their advantage in the 27th minute after another Afif assist, their tenth of the tournament, when Hatim bowed in a sumptuous shot from the left.

Japan, whose only previous Asian Cup defeat for Qatar came 31 years ago, became unimportant, much to the disgust of its colorful fans among a crowd of 36,000, several sports costumes, including a robust soul in an inflatable sumo suit .

Everything changed when Minamino broke the Qatar defense for the first time in this tournament with a delicate chip after Hatim had fired from close range.