Almoez Ali had no sooner etched his name in the history books of the AFC Asian Cup than he was already looking forward to the next challenge that awaits him and his Qatari teammates on the road towards the country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Ali’s nine-goal haul makes him the most successful striker at a single AFC Asian Cup Finals ever with his total surpassing the great Ali Daei’s record, which was achieved the last time the tournament was played in the United Arab Emirates in 1996.
That tally saw him finish as the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 topscorer as well as claim the Most Valuable Player award, but despite an impressive personal haul, Ali is already setting his sights further forward.
“We are working on the target of the 2022 World Cup and we have started well with the Asian Cup,” he said. “We managed to win (the title) and defeat Japan and for the next step towards the World Cup, we will be preparing for that with the Copa America in Brazil.
“We don’t expect to get results but to learn more about football because we know the Copa America is one of the biggest tournaments in the world. The Copa America is different and we will learn a lot from that. As a team from the Gulf, that will help us to have a better performance in 2022.”
Ali has been in devastating form through UAE 2019, also equalling the record of the most goals in one game with his four-goal burst against DPR Korea in the group phase, and his on-field relationship with Akram Afif was of paramount importance to his nation’s first-ever AFC Asian Cup win.
As was so often the case over the last month, it was Afif who supplied the pass that allowed Ali to set himself up for his spectacular opener in the final against Japan and the Al Duhail forward paid tribute to his teammate.
“For the first goal I had one defender behind me so I knew I could put the ball in any corner, so I tried to put it in the corner past the goalkeeper,” he said. “It was a nice goal.
“Akram and I have been together for seven years and I know where Akram will be and where he will pass and he knows what is expected from me, so it’s normal after seven years that we get along very well together.”
Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez, who worked with Ali last year when he finished as the leading scorer at the AFC U23 Championship in China, praised the 22-year-old forward and stressed that he expected even more from him in the future.
“Almoez is a fantastic player and it’s a pleasure to coach him,” said the Spaniard. “He’s 100% committed and in each game he gives 100% and he reached this tournament in the perfect moment.”
“We’re very proud of him. He got two awards that are very well deserved. He got this because of the group, but he did excellent work. It’s very well deserved and we’re proud of him.
“It’s not the first time that he has shown this performance and last year in China he was also the top scorer, so he’s on the right way and I’m sure he will be looking to do even better in the next tournament and help the team.”
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019