Qatar win again as Hong Kong exit World Cup

Qatar's soccer team players celebrate after their teammate Karim Boudiaf (not pictured) scores a goal against China during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Doha, Qatar, October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Ibrahem Alomari

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 Qatar’s skipper Hasan Al-Haydos and Sebastian Suria — ensured Qatar’s seventh win in seven games in AFC Group C.

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 is aiming to qualify for their first World Cup.

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 rest of the first half but the game opened up in the second half 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 Suria slotted home from close range in the 86th minute to secure victory for the home side.

In truth the result was never in doubt as 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, avoiding defeat to rivals China twice and only losing to Qatar in their eight games.

Qatar now travel to China next week in a game between two of the biggest spending powers in football.

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.

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