Qatar narrowly beat Iran 3-2 in thrilling Asian Cup 2023 semifinal | AFC Asian Cup Update

Al Thumama Stadium, Qatar

– Qatar’s dream of winning a second successive Asian title, and doing it in front of their home crowd, has reached its final destination after the hosts fought their way past Asian giants Iran in the second semifinal of the AFC Asian Cup 2023.

Qatar came back from conceding a goal in the fourth minute to finish the game 3-2 on top in a closely-contested game of end-to-end action and high drama at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Wednesday.

It was the end of the road for Iran’s golden generation of footballers, who had brushed aside tournament favourites Japan in the quarterfinal and had overcome a spirited Syrian side in a penalty shootout in their first knockout game.

Their fans, thousands of whom had turned up to every Iran game and backed their team all the way through the action with relentless chanting and clapping, were left wondering how much longer they would have to wait for a fourth Asian title.

The worst nightmare

Qatar came into the match on the back of their first real test in the tournament, when they were taken all the way to a penalty shootout by Uzbekistan, and the prospect of facing the continent’s second-best side Iran was a cause of concern for their fans ahead of kickoff.

The roaring start drove Iran’s confidence and pushed Qatar to look for an equaliser. As a result, the game swung from one end of the pitch to the other, and Qatar finally levelled in the 17th minute with a scrappy finish from Jassem Gaber.

The fans of the al-Annabi – the Maroons – breathed a collective sigh of relief and finally found their voice.

The first half was edging towards its end with a 1-1 scoreline until Qatar’s favourite footballing son, Akram Afif, produced a moment of magic to put the home side in the lead and set off wild celebrations in the stands.

Both teams surged forward in search of more goals, and Iran had their attempts rewarded with a penalty after a VAR check on an Iran corner. Team Melli’s captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh stepped up and coolly slotted home to bring his team to level.

Both teams drove the game from one end to the other and the crowd rode along on a wave of emotions.

In the end, it was Qatar’s hero from their 2019 title-winning run Almoez Ali who found the ball at his feet in front of an open goal and struck the decisive goal.

The local crowd swung their scarves and swayed to Qatar’s unofficial football anthem “Shoomilah Shoomilah” as they came within touching distance of the final.

The referee added 13 minutes of stoppage time, much to the bemusement of Qatar, but Iran still failed to break even.

In the end, as the referee’s full-time whistle blew, the men in white collapsed on the pitch with broken hearts and tired bodies.

Those in maroon ran up to their fans to join in the celebrations.

As for the al-Annabi’s fans, they beeped their cars out of the stadium and all the way up to Souq Waqif in the heart of the capital with “Shoomilah Shoomilah” on full blast.

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