Sun, Jan 27, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Qatar, UAE set up charged semi


Australia midfielder Jackson Irvine, left, laments losing 1-0 to the United Arab Emirates in the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Friday in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

Photo: AP

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are to meet in a politically charged Asian Cup semi-final after they knocked out the two favorites on Friday.

Since June 2017, the UAE has been part of a quartet of nations leading an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar. The standoff has impacted Qatar’s logistics at the Asian Cup in the UAE, but not their performance on the field.

Qatar reached the last four of Asia’s continental showpiece for the first time by beating two-time champions South Korea 1-0.

The UAE defeated title-holders Australia by the same score to set up a meeting with Qatar in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The other semi-final is tomorrow in Al Ain with Japan taking on Iran.

South Korea’s exit is good news for Tottenham, as forward Son Heung-min can rejoin his injury-hit English Premier League club earlier than expected.

Qatar are the surprise package of the tournament, scoring 12 goals without conceding and notching five straight wins.

“It was a big day for us,” coach Felix Sanchez said. “We achieved something that is history for us so I just want to congratulate everyone.”

In Abu Dhabi, midfielder Abdelaziz Hatim hit the only goal for Qatar with a left-foot shot from outside the area in the 78th minute. South Korea’s best chance came a minute earlier when Kim Jin-su hit the post from a free-kick.

In Al Ain, the UAE avenged their 2015 semi-final loss to Australia. Ali Ahmed Mabkhout pounced on a defensive blunder to claim his fourth goal of the tournament and spark wild celebrations.

“We said from the beginning that we don’t have the ambition to play attractive football,” Mabkhout said. “If it comes with a win, that’s okay. The important thing for us is to get results. The other things aren’t important.”

Australia were marred further by the announcement that the sister of former refugee international Awer Mabil died in a car crash shortly before he played.

Bor Mabil, 19, was killed in an accident in Adelaide just hours before the match, in which Awer Mabil was a second-half substitute.

Reports said that Awer Mabil, 23, was unaware of the tragedy when he took the field.

Football Federation Australia said he was receiving support.

Two drivers have been charged over the accident, in which a car carrying Bor Mabil crashed into a fence, Australian Broadcasting Corp said. She reportedly died at the scene.

The Mabil children grew up in a mud hut in a Kenyan refugee camp after the family fled conflict in Sudan, before resettling in Australia in 2006.

Awer Mabil has grabbed attention for his distinctive goal celebration, placing one hand over his mouth with two fingers from the other hand pointing at his forehead.

The aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues such as depression, which he has witnessed all over the world, he said earlier in the tournament.

“It’s something that I keep in mind, because I know a lot of people suffer from it. The sport we play, we’re very grateful, but it’s not easy, it’s not what people think it is,” Mabil said. “People suffer from being alone — you can have all the things in the world, but if you don’t have peace of mind, what’s the point?”

Additional reporting by AFP

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