Qatar maintained their unbeaten qualification record for the 2018 World Cup on Thursday with a 2-0 victory which ended Hong Kong‘s participation in the tournament.
A goal in either half in Doha — from skipper Hasan Al-Haydos and Sebastian Soria — ensured dominant Qatar’s seventh win in seven AFC Group C games.
Qatar, along with South Korea, who also won on Thursday, are the only two sides with a perfect record in the second round of AFC qualification games.
The Gulf country, which will host the 2022 World Cup, had already ensured progression to the third round of qualifying which will see 12 of Asia’s biggest teams qualify for four spots at Russia in two years’ time.
Qatar are aiming to qualify for their first World Cup but coach Daniel Carreno, who said his team were deserved winners, refused to be drawn on which teams he would like to play in the next round.
“Eighty-five per cent of the game was in the opponent’s half,” said the Uruguayan.
“We were very disciplined throughout the match, I think the future of the Qatari team is very good.
“All of the players are convinced there’s something good waiting for them in the future.”
The deadlock was broken in the 20th minute, when Al-Haydos fired in a right-foot shot from the edge of the area.
There were very few chances in the first half but the game opened up in the second as Hong Kong committed more players to attack to try and secure an unlikely victory to keep their faint qualification hopes alive. It never looked likely.
Instead, Al-Haydos and fellow midfielder Rodrigo Taba, who struck a post, almost added a second for Qatar before Soria slotted home from close range in the 86th minute to secure victory for the home side.
Hong Kong barely threatened, with substitute Alexander Oluwatayo’s second-half shot — easily saved by Qatar’s Amine Lecomte — the closest they came to scoring.
It was a tame end for Hong Kong who had enjoyed a decent qualification campaign, twice avoiding defeat to rivals China and only losing to Qatar in their eight games.
Hong Kong‘s coach Kim Pan-gon said he had “no complaints” about the defeat and added that Qatar were capable of qualifying for Russia.
“Qatar is a very strong country and could go to the World Cup,” he said.
“The next stage they will face very strong teams but I respect Qatar football. I hope they have good luck in the final stage.”
Qatar travel to China next week in a game between two of football’s biggest spenders.
China, second in Group C after winning 4-0 against Maldives on Thursday, must win next Tuesday’s game to have any chance of keeping their qualification hopes alive.
A victory in Xi’an on March 29 could help China progress as one of the four best losers from the second stage of qualification.
However, a win for Qatar could help improve their FIFA ranking, which could give them a better draw in the third stage.