Qatar first to qual­ify for Asian Cup, Iran win

Iran thrash Guam de­spite visa woe

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

SIN­GA­PORE: Qatar be­came the first side to book a spot at the 2019 Asian Cup and the next round of 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers on a busy yes­ter­day that show­cased the pol­i­tick­ing and prob­lems the sport faces in its largest re­gion.

With the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion reel­ing from Mon­day’s news that one of its pil­lars, Nepal’s Ganesh Thapa, had been banned for 10 years for tak­ing money dur­ing FIFA elec­tions, Asia’s best tried to switch fo­cus back to on­field events but other is­sues were ev­i­dent.

Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts, were 3-0 win­ners over Bhutan at Changlim­ithang Sta­dium in the Thim­phu moun­tains and they se­cured top spot in Group C when Hong Kong and China then played out a 0-0 draw in a po­lit­i­cally tense clash. Home fans booed dur­ing the play­ing of China’s na­tional an­them and held up de­fi­ant ban­ners at the Mong Kok Sta­dium, where there was a heavy po­lice pres­ence with or­gan­is­ers wary of trou­ble fol­low­ing last year’s pro-democ­racy ral­lies.

The draw left Hong Kong in po­si­tion to grab sec­ond place in the group be­hind Qatar who have won all six matches. The eight group win­ners and four best run­ners-up will qual­ify for the Asian Cup and the third round of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing in the con­ti­nent and most of the fan­cied sides, bar China, look set to com­plete the straight­for­ward task.

Cam­bo­dia, whose do­mes­tic cham­pi­ons Ph­nom Penh Crown FC have been hit by a match-fix­ing scan­dal which has led to seven play­ers be­ing sus­pended, were beaten 2-0 by Ja­pan, who stayed clear in Group E.

Syria kept pace in sec­ond spot, one point back, af­ter they struck in the 93rd minute to beat Sin­ga­pore 2-1 at the citys­tate’s Na­tional Sta­dium, where se­cu­rity was in­creased be­cause of the at­tacks in Paris on Fri­day. Syr­ian coach Fajr Ibrahim opted for a tra­di­tional na­tional team track­suit dur­ing the post-match news con­fer­ence af­ter don­ning a white T-shirt of a smil­ing Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad on Mon­day.


Yes­ter­day’s 14-match sched­ule in Asia was kicked off by Iran beat­ing US ter­ri­tory Guam 6-0 away de­spite four of their play­ers and two mem­bers of staff be­ing re­fused visas to en­ter the tiny is­land. East Ti­mor were also short­handed, with seven na­tion­alised Brazil­ians ab­sent af­ter com­plaints from ri­vals about their el­i­gi­bil­ity. They were trounced 10-0 by Saudi Ara­bia in Dili as the West Asians stayed top of Group A.

United Arab Emi­rates re­mained on their tails in sec­ond place af­ter they beat Malaysia 2-1 in an empty sta­dium in Kuala Lumpur as the hosts served out a pun­ish­ment for crowd trou­ble in their pre­vi­ous home de­feat by the Saudis.

Else­where, Asian cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia put aside se­cu­rity con­cerns in Dhaka to beat Bangladesh 4-0 in Group B, while South Korea crushed Laos 5-0 in Vi­en­tiane to make it six wins from six in Group G, which still con­tains Kuwait de­spite the coun­try serv­ing a FIFA ban.

The heavy de­feat capped a bad week for Laos, whose foot­ball fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Viphet Si­hachakr was banned for two years on Mon­day and fined af­ter ac­cept­ing pay­ments dur­ing the 2011 FIFA elec­tions.

In­done­sia, also serv­ing a FIFA ban for po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence like Kuwait, have been kicked out of com­pet­ing in Group F, where Iraq kept up their pur­suit of lead­ers Thai­land with a 2-0 win in Tai­wan.

AFC Pres­i­dent Shaikh Sal­man bin Ebrahim Al Khal­ifa, who is stand­ing for the FIFA Pres­i­dency in Fe­bru­ary elec­tions, is the man cur­rently charged with clear­ing up the prob­lems in Asian foot­ball. His Bahrain team lost 2-0 in North Korea which all but ended their bid to reach Rus­sia 2018.


THIM­PHU: Foot­baller Mo­hammed Mun­tari (R) from Qatar scores the first goal dur­ing the FIFA 2018 Asian Group C qual­i­fy­ing match be­tween Bhutan and Qatar at The Changlim­ithang Sta­dium in Thim­phu yes­ter­day.

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