DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After four weeks filled with drama and upset, the Asian Cup ended with host nation and…
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After four weeks filled with drama and upset, the Asian Cup ended with host nation and defending champion Qatar celebrating its second consecutive title.
AP photographers captured the emotion and excitement on and off the field throughout the tournament.
A hat trick of penalties for the tournament’s star player and leading scorer Akram Afif secured a 3-1 win against Jordan and provided a glorious finale for Qatar on Saturday.
Home fans had hoped for such a perfect ending when turning up at the same venue for the opening ceremony a month earlier.
The scenes on Saturday night, with players joyously celebrating on the field with fans joining in, in the stands, would have seemed unlikely after Qatar, as host, exited its own World Cup after three straight defeats in the group stage in 2022.
Just over a year on and that pain was turned to ecstasy, with Afif’s eight goals, making him the stand-out player of a tournament that featured stars from Europe’s top leagues.
After fans exited Lusail Stadium – which had played host to Lionel Messi and Argentina’s crowning glory at the World Cup – a spectacular firework display continued over Doha.
Throughout the tournament, there was no shortage of explosive moments on the field, with dramatic late goals a consistent feature.
Saudi Arabia exited at the round of 16 after South Korea’s equalizer in the ninth minute of stoppage time saw the game go to extra time and a penalty shootout. Saudi Arabia’s Italian coach, Roberto Mancini, sparked controversy when walking away before the shootout was even completed to create one of the most memorable moments of the tournament.
South Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann would later face scrutiny of his own for looking too happy as his team was beaten in the semifinals by underdog Jordan.
“I am certainly not walking around tonight and smiling all over the place,” he said under questioning.
Pre-tournament favorite Japan had turned up with high expectations, but suffered a surprise defeat to Iraq in the group stage and was eliminated by Iran in the quarterfinals. It will have to wait to for a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title.
Instead, Qatar became a multiple winner of the trophy and the fifth nation to successfully defend it.
© 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.