Emir of Qatar Opens 24th Arabian Gulf Cup as Iraq Clinch Fortunate Win
Amidst the loudest of applause and songs of appreciation from Qatari and Iraqi fans, the opening ceremony at the Khalifa International Stadium had all the ﬂavours of setting up the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup.
The ceremony showcased the traditional sword dance that filled the stadium with divine Arabic music and witnessed people dancing in stands. The journey of Arab nation’s footballing greats and the history that has earmarked years of footballing success for the Gulf Cup, were on display to set the route wide open. The fans’ area also remained illuminated with mini lights during performances and gave the stadium a stunning look.
The Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani graced the occasion and was welcomed with a breathtaking roar and thunderous claps from the fans. He also spoke on the night and welcomed fans from around the world to Qatar. “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, and upon the blessing of Allah, I announce the opening of the 24th Gulf Cup. In the name of every Qatari, we welcome everyone, to everyone’s Doha,” said His Highness in Arabic, while declaring open the eight-nation tournament.
The opening was also attended by HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, HH the Personal Representative of HH the Emir Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani and HE Sheikh Jassim bin Khalifa Al Thani.
The ceremony was concluded with amazing fireworks before the 1st match between Iraq and Qatar got underway.
The Inaugural Match
Qatar were off to a flyer in their match against Iraq. The team kicked off the ball and set it rolling past the opposition’s defence only in the inaugural minute. However, the shot was stopped by Iraqi goalkeeper, Jalal Hassan.
Iraq looked unsettled in defence, as Qatar pressed hard and retained better possession in the initial ten minutes. Meanwhile, the former had their first big chance in the 12th minute, but Qatar’s solid defence denied from posing any danger.
However, against the odds, Iraq broke the deadlock (1-0) in the 18th minute via Mohammad Qasem. The team made use of the momentum and scored again (2-0) only nine minutes later via Qasem, who registered a brace to his name on the night.
Post goals, Qatar held the backline a little firm, but still made forward runs and came close to scoring in the 39th minute. Unfortunately, the dangerous ball delivered to far post did not see anyone making a forward run.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Iraq’s Mohammad Reda Jaleel was shown a yellow card before the referee signalled half time at 2-0.
In the second half, Qatar started strong again. The team attacked and made dangerous runs from the left wing, before finally scoring (2-1) only four minutes into the second half. Substitute Abdulaziz Hatem pulled one back for hosts.
The goal set the game wide open and Iraq were under a lot of pressure. In the 68th minute Abdelkarim Hassan hit the cross bar after a brilliant delivery from the free kick, and Iraq were lucky to be still leading.
The away team dropped back under constant pressure from the hosts, and relied on counter to make any forward runs. However, the strategy was more to defend than attack in order to protect the lead.
With 80 minutes played, Qatar decided to throw everything up, while enjoying better possession than their rivals. In the 88th minute, a chipped ball from just outside the box was brilliant headed goal wards, but Hassan made a good save.
Nine minutes were added for stoppages after 90 minutes of exceptional football at the inaugural match of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup. In the dying minutes of stoppage time, Qatar’s striker Mohammed Muntari missed a one-on-one opportunity against the keeper as fortunes sided with Iraq for the famous 2-1 victory on the night.
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