Qatar Take Inspiration From Triumphant Al Annabi As U23 Asian Cup Kicks Off

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Fawad Hussain |The Peninsula

Doha, Qatar: Hosts Qatar will take on debutants Indonesia in their opening match as the AFC U23 Asian Cup kicks off today, with head coach Ilidio Vale setting sights on the Olympic berth.

The continent's elite 16 sides are battling for glory and berths for this year's Games as the top three nations from the tournament will get tickets to Paris. The team finishing fourth will feature in a play-off against African counterparts.

After missing the inaugural edition in 2013, Qatar became a regular side in the tournament with a fourth-place finish in 2018 being their best performance.

Qatar players during a training session yesterday.

But Portuguese coach Vale wants his side to take at least one step further in this year's edition.

“The goal of this tournament is to qualify for the Olympics,” he said ahead of Qatar's opening Group A match set to kick off at 6:30pm at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

“It is good exposure to compete with the best teams in Asia, and I believe everyone should make the best of this time whether you're a coach, player or administrator,” said the Portuguese.

Qatar national team clinched the Asian Cup – Al Annabi's second straight title – in February at home with the coach terming the triumph as a morale booster for his side.

“The victory of our national team in the recent AFC Asian Cup provides a morale boost for the U23 players of our team,” he said, before adding: “We will play without pressure because it's a different tournament, and we will take one step at a time.”

Vale, who took over the team's charge last August, supervised team's training camp that continued for weeks and included several friendly matches.

“The Qatar Football Association has provided us with everything we need from infrastructure to equipment. We are fully prepared and will be competing hard in this group stage. We may not be favourites to win, but we will give our best in every match,” said Vale.

The hosts will be relying on their attacking talent that includes rising stars in Tameen Mansour Alabdulla, Ahmed Alrawi and Lotfi Madjer.

Indonesia, meanwhile, are hoping to leave a mark on their debut appearance, with head coach Shin Tae-yong expecting a tough challenge in the group that also has Australia and Jordan.

“Qatar, Australia and Jordan are extremely competitive,” said Shin, who guided his native South Korea to the quarter-finals of the 2016 Rio Games.

“The AFC U23 Asian Cup is not in the FIFA calendar, so I can't say that we have had the perfect preparation, but we have the mindset to improve, continue to develop ourselves and hopefully, we have a good performance.”

“In Dubai, we had friendlies against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and we had a great experience. The level of our performance increased and with that, the players' confidence also increased. Those matches have been a great help for our team, especially for the matches against Qatar and Jordan,” he added.

Before the game, Australia and Jordan will square off at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in group's first match with kick off set for 4pm.


The Peninsula

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