Qatar keeps 2018 World Cup hopes alive

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 15.06.2017 01:16

World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar beat South Korea 3-2 to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching next year's finals in Russia as they bid to avoid becoming the first host nation to have never before qualified for the tournament

World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar improbably kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year's tournament in Russia with a thrilling victory over South Korea on Tuesday.

On a politically charged night in Doha, a Hasan Al-Haydos goal, his second of the match, secured a 3-2 win after Qatar had squandered a two-goal lead and looked to be heading out of the competition. It means Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts who have endured a dreadful final round in the AFC qualifying competition, still have a remote chance of playing in Russia. They now stand five points behind third-place Uzbekistan and will need to win both their final games in Group A - and hope Uzbekistan lose both - to stand a chance of qualifying. The team that finishes third will head into play-offs for a place in Russia.

Despite the defeat, qualification for Russia is still in South Korea's own hands. They remain a point ahead of Uzbekistan in the race for the automatic second qualifying spot in the group. Tuesday's result could also set up a thrilling finale in the group as Qatar play Uzbekistan in the last match.

As well as the action on the pitch, there was also plenty of drama off the pitch. Qatar players face potential action from FIFA after they warmed-up for the match in T-shirts showing an image of the country's leader, which has become a widely-used symbol of defiance in Doha during the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. FIFA does not allow teams to wear political symbols or slogans on shirts.

Earlier this week in response to the Gulf crisis, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said football's governing body does "not interfere in geopolitics" and gave his support for the 2022 tournament going ahead in Qatar, according to Reuters. Afterwards, Qatar's Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati defended his players and then condemned the "ridiculous situation" of the "blockade" on the emirate.

"I don't see something that can receive a punishment as it is a T-shirt with a picture of the emir," he said.

"It doesn't say anything against anybody."

He added: "I can't agree with the blockade that is against the people, against the families, many families are damaged, they really don't deserve this."

The Uruguayan coach's decision to quit after less than a year in charge took the Qatar Football Association by surprise and its president said he wanted to discuss the matter with the coach before accepting the resignation. Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani said Spanish under-23 team coach Felix Sanchez would take over if Fossati could not be persuaded to stay on, Doha-based TV station Al-Kass reported.

Fans wore t-shirts supporting Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, with the same images of the ruler's face that people have plastered on cars in expressions of nationalism in the face of the Saudi-led isolation of its smaller neighbour.

"It was a good match, and great for the nation," one Qatari supporter said.

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