14 Jul 2021
HOUSTON. Aspire Academy graduates, Akram Afif and Almoez Ali scored for Qatar in their opening match of CONCACAF Gold Cup play at BBVA Stadium in Houston on Tuesday 13 July. Qatar national team captain Hassan Al Haydos converted a penalty for the third goal of a thrilling match that finished produced six goals al coming in the second half.
Almoez Ali’s well-taken shot that nestled into the bottom corner left him with an enviable honour of scoring at 3 Continental Championship finals, (Asian Cup, Copa America and now Gold Cup. That goal was made from a familiar combination of two Aspire graduates as scorer of Qatar’s first goal Afif turned provider for the second goal with an assist via a through ball to Almoez who finished expertly to give Qatar the lead in the 53rd minute. Qatar hosts of next year’s 2022 FIFA World Cup are playing in the North American (CONCACAF) tournament as invited guests and are in Group D along with Panama, Honduras, and Grenada.
Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez would have been pleased his charges’ opening result although he would have settled for all 3 points when considering Qatar lead three times before Panama hit back each time. Sanchez believes playing in the Gold Cup will give his team the test and challenge necessary for their preparations for next year’s world cup on home soil and said prior to the match against Panama, “ We are trying to create a good program for us to be able to reach the best level for the World Cup and what better way to play a tournament of this magnitude where everyone comes here to try to perform to win, so this makes it worthy competition for us as we have to play at the highest level against top level teams, ” said coach Felix Sanchez.
Recently appointed Aspire Academy Chief Sports Officer, Tim Cahill was complimentary of Qatar's performance in their opener saying, "It's a solid and pleasing start by Qatar. l believe this good well-drilled team that includes in it Aspire Academy graduates, will go on and give a good account of themselves at 2021 Gold Cup and l wish Qatar well for the rest of the tournament", said the Australian record goalscorer.
Qatar ‘s next match will be on Sunday 18 July 2021 when “Al -Annabi” takes on Grenada before rounding off group phase with an encounter against Honduras on Wednesday 21st July 2021.