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Qatar football team beat Japan to win their first ever Asian Cup

National team of tiny Gulf emirate beats four-time champions Japan 3-1
Qatar's star player Almoez Ali celebrates winning the Asia Cup with victory over Japan (Reuters)

Qatar's national football team topped its surprise success at the Asian Cup by beating Japan to win the tournament on Friday. 

A late penalty for Qatar sealed the result at 3-1, ending an attempted comeback by Japan, who had pulled a goal back after initially falling two behind. 

The the tournament's top scorer, Qatar's Almoez Ali scored the first goal, setting a new Asian Cup record with nine goals.

His ninth goal in the competition may have also been his best. The Sudanese-born 22-year-old striker scored with a dazzling overhead kick from inside the box after setting himself up by juggling the ball while Japan's defenders watched on. 

In the 27th minute, Abdulaziz Hatem doubled Qatar's lead with a thunderous shot from outside the box.

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Qatar had never before won the Asian Cup while Japan had won four of the last seven tournaments.

On route to the final, Qatar beat its Gulf neighbours and regional foes Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

The semi-final between the UAE, which hosted the tournament, and Qatar was particularly tense, with home fans hurling shoes and other objects on Qatari players. The game ended 4-0 in favour of Qatar.

Doha is locked in a regional dispute with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Riyadh and its allies have imposed a blockade on the tiny Gulf peninsula since June 2017, accusing it of financing militants and interfering in their affairs, charges that the Qatari government denies. 

Ahead of the final, the UAE protested the eligibility of Qatar's naturalised players, including Ali and Iraqi-born centre back, Bassam al-Rawi. 

The Asian Football Confederation dismissed the protest. 

The Asian Cup success is a major boost for Qatar, ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which will mark the team's debut at the tournament. Qatar has never qualified for the World Cup finals, held every four years, but will automatically qualify in 2022 as hosts.

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