U-19s make history, reach World Cup for first time in 20 years
Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar: Qatar’s rising star Ahmed Al Sadi opened the scoring as Qatar secured a return to the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time since 1995 after stunning China by recording a 4-2 victory at a damp Wunna TheikdiStadium on Friday.
Al Sadi headed home his fifth goal of the tournament on five minutes before first-half substitute Akram Afif was brought down in the area by Zhou Yuchen on the stroke of half-time, earning the goalkeeper a red card and the forward a penalty which he converted.
A deluge of rain greeted the second half and with it a goal from Gui Hong that gave China a glimmer of hope on the 53rd minute. Qatar captain Ahmad Moein then struck from long range to put the score at 3-1 before Wei Jingzong’s penalty conversion that saw defender Assim Madibo dismissed.
However, there was still time for one more goal as Almoez Ali ended any China defiance in stoppage time, with Wei Shihao then sent off shortly before the final whistle.
Felix Sanchez Bas’ side will next travel to Yangon for Monday’s semi-final meeting with hosts Myanmar, as well as booking themselves a place at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time since they hosted the tournament in 1995.
Qatar’s Spanish coach couldn’t have asked for a better start to the quarter-final, though, as Abdullah Al Ahrak’s right-wing cross just five minutes into the tie was headed in by Al Sadi, steaming in at the back post, for his fifth goal in four games.
Tang Shi went close to an immediate reply as he burst into the penalty area from the left-flank and forced goalkeeper Yousof Hassan into a hasty block at his near post.
Forward Ali could have have doubled the Qatar lead with three minutes of the half remaining after leaving Gao Zhunyi for dead and surging into the penalty area, but rather than try to score himself, he unselfishly squared the pass for Al Sadi who was dispossessed by a backtracking defender.
But Qatar only needed a further three minutes before they added a second, and on the stroke of half-time, substitute Afif, who had barely been on the pitch for more than a few minutes, sprinted through the centre and was felled by Zhou inside the penalty area, earning the custodian his marching orders and Afif a penalty, which he scored with a composed finished.
Although the West Asians began a second period with a man advantage, it was China that came out the stronger as heavy rain fell, and just eight minutes in had halved the deficit through Gui, who tore down the left side of the penalty area before cutting back onto his right, sending two defenders sliding past, and firing past Hassan.
Renewed hope for the East Asians lasted just five minutes, though, as Moein’s speculative effort from 25 yards out skimmed off the sodden turf and past replacement goalkeeper Jia Xinyao into the far corner to restore Qatar’s two-goal cushion.
But with just five minutes of the action-packed tie remaining, China were not only back on level terms in the score line but also in numbers on the pitch as Madibo received a red card for his foul on Lyu Pin inside the box and Wei Jingzong converted the penalty to make the score 3-2.
Any hopes of a tense finish to the tie were ended by Ali, however, as he powered into the box at the other end and despite seeing his efforts saved twice by Jia, China’s failure to get the ball clear proved their undoing as on his third attempt Ali rifled home.
Frustration overcame Boavista starlet Wei Shihao at the end as he received his second yellow card to leave China with nine men as the final whistle blew and the Qatari celebrations began.