Doha: Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos said the Asian Cup hosts and defending champions have proved their critics wrong by reaching Saturday’s final against Jordan.
Tintin Marquez was parachuted in to replace Carlos Queiroz as coach just a month before the tournament, sparking criticism in some quarters.
But the Spaniard’s impact has been immediate, leading Qatar to their second consecutive final.
Haydos said his team’s “professional mentality” has allowed them to take it in their stride and he shot back at those who had written them off.
“A month before the tournament, no one thought we would reach the final and no one thought we would deliver performances like this,” he said on Friday.
Unity in the team
“But working with the coach, I think the team was able to reach this level because of the efforts of the players and the unity in the team.”
Qatar won their first Asian title in 2019 and now surprise packages Jordan are all that stand in their way of another.
Marquez’s side booked their place in the final with a hard-fought 3-2 semi-final win over Iran, with striker Almoez Ali hitting an 82nd-minute winner.
Marquez has used all 26 players in his squad — including all three goalkeepers — and he said that “every player has contributed” to their run to the final.
“Some have played more than others but they have all had a role to play,” said the coach.
“It’s a very important part of our system and philosophy.”
Match between brothers
Qatar have had one day less to prepare than Jordan, who reached their first final after a deserved 2-0 win over Son Heung-min’s South Korea.
Qatar had to fight until the end to see off Iran in their semi-final and almost conceded an equaliser in the final minute when Alireza Jahanbakhsh hit the post.
Marquez said the players “are not machines” and have spent most of their time since the semi-final recovering.
The Spaniard expects the final at the 88,000-capacity Lusail Stadium to be “a match between brothers”.
“But even between brothers there is competition,” he said. “I might play tennis with my brother but I would play to win.”
Families to join Jordan players
Jordan, on the other hand, will play with “one heart and one soul” when they face hosts, defender Salem Al Ajalin said.
Jordan, who are 87 in the Fifa rankings compared to Qatar’s 58, will be cheered on by a small but vocal group of their own supporters for the biggest game in the country’s history.
The players’ families have been flown in and Ajalin said that will help spur the team on as they look to pull off another shock, having defeated South Korea 2-0 in the semi-finals.
“We play with one heart, one soul, we are united,” said the 35-year-old Ajalin on Friday.
“Reaching the final is an achievement for everyone and it is nice to have our family with us and present in the audience.”
Ajalin said that spirit of togetherness is one of the key reasons for Jordan’s shock success.
“For us as players we work in a system from the goalkeeper all the way to the attack. We all work as one unit.”
Jordan’s Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta said he will have a full squad to choose from, including the attackers Yazan Al Naimat and Mousa Al Tamari, who together gave the Korean defence a torrid time.
Committed and disciplined
“All the players are up for it and ready,” said Ammouta, adding “the match will be a technical one rather than a physical one”.
Building on Ajalin’s message of unity, Ammouta said: “The results of the team are because of the collaboration and effort of everyone.
“The players are committed and disciplined.
“But it is not just their fighting spirit. They follow the game plan to the letter.”