Flying footwear and THAT bicycle kick – five Asian Cup moments

Defining moments from the Asian Cup, which ended with Qatar’s 3-1 victory over Japan late on Friday:

– Putting the boot in –
Qatar were busy trampling the United Arab Emirates 4-0 when shoes came flying from the crowd, an Arab insult, as well as a hail of plastic bottles. The Asian Football Confederation launched an investigation after the ugly scenes marred that the semi-final, also including ear-splitting booing of the Qatari national anthem. It didn’t help that the sell-out home crowd was nearly 100 percent behind the hosts thanks to a ticket giveaway for which only Emiratis were eligible.

Qatar’s players celebrate their victory during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final football match between Japan and Qatar at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 1, 2019. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

– Sound of silence –
The torrid events of Qatar’s semi-final were in stark contrast to their Group E game against North Korea, which unfolded in near-silence in front of a tiny crowd. With Qataris mostly barred from UAE due to the Gulf blockade, and North Korean fans not allowed to travel, there were never going to be many supporters. In the event, an official attendance of 452 watched Qatar’s 6-0 demolition in Al Ain. Almoez Ali scored four, equalling the record for an Asian Cup game, with each goal greeted by scattered clapping.

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– Save Hakeem –
It wasn’t the only deafening silence as the Asian Football Confederation came under fire for its muted response to calls to help Hakeem al-Araibi, the Australia-based Bahraini refugee footballer fighting extradition from Thailand. With Australia, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee all weighing in, the AFC — whose president is a member of Bahrain’s ruling family — finally issued an appeal for his release, two months after his detention in Bangkok.

– He did it his way –
Iran’s flamboyant coach Carlos Queiroz bowed out Frank Sinatra-style as he faced the final curtain after their 3-0 semi-final defeat to Japan. “Now the end is here… I’m very happy and very proud — because I did it my way,” riffed the 65-year-old Portuguese, who may now make a Sinatra-style comeback with Colombia. He wasn’t alone in moving on to pastures new: Marcello Lippi, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Alberto Zaccheroni, Bernd Stange, Miroslav Soukup, Stephen Constantine and Milovan Rajevac all bade adieu to their respective teams, not all of them on their own terms.

Qatar’s forward Almoez Ali (2nd-R) shoots to score during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final football match between Japan and Qatar at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 1, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

– THAT bicycle kick –
Every tournament needs its spectacular moments and Almoez Ali saved the best for last with his bicycle kick in the final that triggered Qatar’s 3-1 win over Japan. Even better, it was Ali’s ninth goal of the tournament, breaking Iranian legend Ali Daei’s 1996 record for strikes at a single Asian Cup. Given that the 22-year-old had a protest over his eligibility dismissed just hours earlier, it summed up a victory against the odds for the 2022 World Cup hosts.