Doha (AFP) – World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar improbably kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Russia with a thrilling victory over South Korea on Tuesday.
On a politically charged night in Doha, a Hasan Al-Haydos goal, his second of the match, secured a 3-2 win after Qatar had squandered a two goal lead and looked to be heading out of the competition.
It means Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts who have endured a dreadful final round in the AFC qualifying competition, still have a remote chance of playing in Russia.
They now stand five points behind third-place Uzbekistan and will need to win both their final games in Group A to stand a chance of qualifying.
The team that finishes third will head into a play-off for Russia.
And despite the defeat, qualification for Russia is still in South Korea’s own hands.
They remain a point ahead of Uzbekistan in the race for the automatic second qualifying spot in the group
Tuesday’s result could also set up a thrilling finale in the group as Uli Stielike’s team play Uzbekistan in the last match.
As well as the action on the pitch, there was also plenty of drama off the pitch.
Qatar players face potential action from FIFA after they warmed-up for the match in T-shirts showing an image of the country’s leader, which has become a widely-used symbol of defiance in Doha during the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.
FIFA does not allow teams to wear political symbols or slogans on shirts.
Qatar largely owed their victory to the industry and finishing of Al-Haydos and young forward Akram Afif.
It was a foul on Afif, who is the first ever Qatari to play in La Liga, in the 25th minute which lead to Qatar’s opener.
Al-Haydos took the resulting free-kick from some 20 yards, scoring with a fine finish.
After scoring he ran to the touchline to hold up a T-shirt of the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to the crowd.
Afif scored Qatar’s second in the 51st minute, which seemed to assure victory, but the home side’s fragile defence could not stand firm.
Goals from South Korea’s Ki Sung Yueng and Hwang Hee Chan in the 62nd and 69th minute seemed to have secured Korea a valuable point in their attempt to get to Russia.
But fine work from Brazilian-born Rodrigo Tabata set up Al-Haydos for a 74th minute winner, prompting delirious scenes on the touchlines and in the stands.
Tottenham’s Son Heung Min went off injured in the 33rd minute after apparently hurting his right arm.