Doha (Qatar), Jan 17 (AP) Host Qatar reached the AsianCup quarterfinals for the second time in its history Sundayfollowing a 3-0 victory over Kuwait, and Uzbekistan advancedwith a 2-2 draw that sent opponent China home.
Qatar, flying high following its winning bid to host the2022 World Cup, needed a victory against winless Kuwait toensure it advanced. Two first-half goals in five minutes setcoach Bruno Metsu''s side on its way and sent the crowd of28,000 at Khalifa Stadium into delirious celebrations.
Across town, China fought back from a goal down to drawwith Uzbekistan, but the team still finished third in Group A.
The early exit was the latest disappointment for the Chinese,which have struggled since qualifying for the 2002 World Cup,having also left the Asian Cup early in 2007.
Uzbekistan topped the group with seven points, one morethan Qatar. China has four points and Kuwait has zero.
We were not good in the first match, but our realmatches started with China,'''' said Qatar defender BilalMohammed, referring to a 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan followed by a2-0 win over the Chinese.
In the previous tournaments, we were out from the firstround. But now we are better and deserve to qualify and go tothe final.''''
Mohammed powered in a header from Ibrahim al-Ghanim''sdeep cross in the 11th minute to give Qatar the lead.
Five minutes later, Mohamed El Sayed took advantage of agoal-mouth scramble to make it 2-0. El Sayed appeared to pushhis marker out of the way to reach the long ball out ofdefense, but no whistle came. His initial header was saved andSebastian Suria''s follow-up was blocked, but El Sayed got tothe loose ball and sent it into the top corner with goalkeeperNawaf al-Khaldi stranded.
Qatar substitute Fabio Cesar wrapped up the victory inthe 86th, curling a left-footed free kick around the wall andinto the top corner past a static goalkeeper.
Metsu admitted he and his players have been underpressure to match the well-organized tournament with a displayon the pitch that showed they are better than the team''sposition of No. 105 in the FIFA world rankings. More (AP) AT
The team was influenced by the importance of the opening match and it had an impact on the mentality of theplayers,'''' Metsu said.
With today''s performance and victory, they have reachedthe point they were aiming at.''''
Kuwait''s best chance came right at the end of the firsthalf when a cross found Walied Ali in space at the far post,but his angled shot was diverted behind by goalkeeper QasemBurhan.
Qatar''s qualification should give the tournament a boostand keep the host nation interested, especially in light ofthe poor performances of most neighboring Gulf teams.
Thousands of Qataris, often wearing the team''smaroon-and-white colors, have watched their team live inaction.
This is the team that we all know,'''' said Mohammedal-Merri, a 24-year-old student. Today we proved that we canwin the cup and beat all the teams. We are so happy about theway they played. This is a big result which we will neverforget.''''
Yu Hai gave China the lead against Uzbekistan in thesixth minute with a diving header that only just beat thegoalkeeper.
Odil Akhmedov equalized in the 30th, and AlexanderGeynrikh''s booming drive from outside the area gave Uzbekistana 2-1 lead in the 46th. Hao Junmin leveled for China with acurling free kick in the 56th.
This Asian Cup was a great experience for our youngteam,'''' China coach Gao Hongbo said. We could learn a lot.
We had many chances in this match, but we were unfortunate.''''
Uzbekistan now plays the Group B runner-up on Friday,when Qatar plays the top team in the same group.
It was a good game. We won the group, everyone ispleased,'''' Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov said. (AP)