Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Asian Cup Qatar January 2011

‘It’s very pleasant here in the winter sunshine, a big contrast to the bad weather in the UK’

‘Yes’ the Qatari local replied ‘But you would hate it in the summer’.
So much for playing the 2022 World Cup in June in Qatar.

The 2011 Asian Cup didn’t have any such issues.

7th January Qatar v Uzbekistan 0-2 at the Khalifa Stadium Doha.

A typically no-expenses spared firework show making it an effective, vibrant, opening to this edition of the Asian Cup.

But in many ways that was as good as it got on this Friday afternoon for the home fans who turned out in large numbers to fill the Khalifa Stadium (where I had seen England play Brazil)

Their team generally created few chance and lost out to the Uzbeks in terms of possession.
The White Wolves found gaps in the home defence but didn’t have the quality to exploit it in the first period although a Geynrikh effort did glance the post.
Brazilian Fabio got closest for Qatar with a free kick that brushed the post.

In the second half Uzebikstan went ahead with a terrific 30 yd drive from Ahmedov which was somewhat out of character from the rest of the match.
They doubled their lead with about 15 minutes to go when a defensive pass was misplaced and Djeparov scored easily.

Soon enough the crowd drifted away and Qatar had a disappointing start to their hosting of the Asian Cup.
A cynic might suggest they have another 11 years to hire some more Brazilians.

8th January Al Gharafa Stadium Kuwait v China 0-2.

Initially China had more possession although Kuwait had the better chances and a good shout for a penalty.
But Kuwait subsequently had a man sent off for a kick at the China striker and though it took them some time China eventually went ahead. They sealed the win with a left footed free kick from Deng.

Kuwait never really got close after that and it was a good start for the young Chinese team.

The fans were in some ways more passionate than in the first game with a good number of Kuwaiti fans and a contingent from China - both sets of fans being next to each other on the side of the stadium.

As usual the conditions were very good and the weather mild and dry.

Afterwards it was back to the Ramada hotel for refreshments.

January 9th Japan 1 Jordan 1 in the Qatar Sports Club stadium.

There was plenty of support for Jordan in the Sports club ground close to the skyscraper area - nice views of the skyline being visible from the main stand.

Japan were expected to win but they missed some chances in the first half and found themselves 1-0 down just before the break after a deflected shot eluded their goalie.

The Blue Samurai took until added time to finally get the equaliser as the Jordanians defended well and also held up the ball whenever possible.

Japan are likely to get better particularly Borussia Dortmund’s talent Kagawa who often found space, showed good movement and has two good feet.

January 10th Australia 4 India 0 in the Al Sadd stadium.

The Al Sadd is a nice, smallish, European style stadium being enclosed and covered.

India, despite their noisy, idiosyncratic support, were lightweight and never going to trouble the top-ranked Australians.

The Aussies scored early when Tim Cahill converted a Brett Emerton cross.

He would head in another later on whilst Harry Kewell struck a decisive left footer.

The game was never a contest.

Also on the 10th South Korea 2 Bahrain 1 in the Al Gharafa.

It takes about a half hour in a car between the two venues.
Not too big a crowd in the Al Gharafa with just small groups from Korea and a section supporting the Bahrainis.

The Gulf team were generally negative in trying to nullifying the much higher rated Koreans.
Their attempts failed as the East Asians scored twice, both from Koo.

Bahrain did get a dubious penalty near the end which also resulted in a Korean defender being harshly red-carded. They scored but it was only a consolation.

Neither game on this day had hit the heights.

Tuesday 11th January North Korea 0 UAE 0 in the Qatar Sports Club.

North Korea are not noted for their goalscoring.
But this time they should have, squandering a penalty as Hong’s shot hit the bar and went over. No doubt his ‘Dear Leader’ will be understanding and he may not go to the salt mines.

After that early opportunity UAE eventually had better possession and some chances.

The Korean team had a group of fans (in shirts and ties) chanting and flag waving in unison and their Gulf opponents had a group of supporters further along in the seats.
But overall the attendance was the lowest so far, about 3,500.

Later on the game became a stalemate and we had the first goalless draw of the 2011 Asian Cup.

Also on the 11th Iraq 1 Iran 2 at the Al Rayyan stadium.

Following a 30 minute car ride between the two venues.

The Al Rayyan is a replica of the Al Garafa stadium except for the red and black seats (covered main stand and open seating in the other areas)

This game was a decent contest played generally in a good spirit.

Both sides had quality players and they were well supported by their lively fans opposite the main stand (and seated next to each other) with slightly more Iraqi fans the Iranians.

Iraq scored first following a long cross that eluded the goalie allowing Emad to nod over him and for striker Mahmoud to put it in for 1-0.
But Iran kept good possession and they equalised after Rezaei beat the offside trap to slot in right footed.

In the second half Mahmoud made a good break but didn’t supply an accurate enough cross, overall he was well contained by the Iran defence.

It took a late free kick on the left by Mobali that beat everyone including the goalkeeper to win it for Iran, much to the delight of the their players and fans.

Again the Ramada was the choice for beer and discussions.

January 12th at the Khalifa stadium Qatar 2 China 0.

Qatar got back on track with a solid win over China.

They found a new hero in Yousef Ahmed who scored both goals, the first after good control and an unstoppable volley, the second an accurate low shot that eluded the Chinese goalie.
Though the Chinese had some chances in the first half they seemed unable to react effectively when two nil down in the second half.

So the hosts are back in the mix and the home fans had something to celebrate.

We took a taxi back to the centre and had a kebab.

January 13th at Al Rayyan Jordan 1 Saudi Arabia 0.

Many of the Saudis had driven over from the Kingdom (some 100km + away) to watch their team on this Thursday afternoon.

They would go home very disappointed.

Jordan also had many fans making in a vibrant atmosphere with a crowd of over 17,000.

The match was settled when Abdulrahman’s speculative cross floated over the badly positioned Saudi goalie for the winner.

Much as the favoured Saudis tried they couldn’t get past the strong Jordan defence.

No doubt another coach will be sacked.

Also on the 13th January at the Qatar Sports Club Syria 1 Japan 2.

Another good, five figure, crowd and an apparent sell-out with the Syrians enjoying plenty of local support.

Japan went ahead in the first half in a move involving Kagawa finished by Hasebe.

As the match developed Japan looked fairly comfortable and the crowd became quieter.

The controversy came after 70 minutes when the Iranian referee gave what seemed a bad decision. The Japan had brought down the Syria forward but the attacker looked clearly offside.
Anyway it was a penalty (scored by Al Khatib) and a red card for the goalie.

Despite the setback Japan had the last word when Honda converted another penalty.

Because of the long delays, including many protests by the Japanese, we had 6 minutes of added time.
Not enough for Syria to equalise but time for Nadim Sabagh to get sent off.

Both teams had plenty of cause to berate the referee at the end.


Qatar had a disappointing level of support at the opening game with few flags or songs.
The (slightly surreal) country itself could hardly be identified as a football hotbed.

Although the Qatar team started weakly they did progress beyond the group stages but they will find it tough to go much further.

At this point I would favour Australia and Japan to go close to winning the Cup.

The stadium facilities were fine, the pitches looked excellent and in general the attendances were perhaps slightly above those expected (boosted by the large numbers of guest workers)

The transport system will have to improve, they plan to build a metro system, as buses are limited and not predictable.
Traffic was also fairly bad at times with particularly slow movement at traffic lights and roundabouts.

Having said that the place has an Interesting mix/melting pot of races - principally Indians, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, Malayans, Pakistanis etc (we had an Eritrean driver for one ride)

If, as seems likely, the 2022 World Cup is moved to January the conditions should be pleasant and conducive for all.
And to expand the event into a Gulf World Cup would certainly provide some variety from the limited delights of Qatar/Doha.

more pictures at

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