Classy Qatar bring Hong Kong’s World Cup qualifying campaign to a halt
Hong Kong’s World Cup qualification hopes ended on Thursday night as group leaders Qatar exposed a gulf in class, beating their visitors 2-0.
With China scoring an expected 4-0 win over Maldives in Wuhan in an earlier match, Hong Kong had to settle for a third place in group C after a 10-month campaign in the regional qualification tournament. Only the top two teams of the group advance to the next round that features Asia’s best 12 teams.
Both Hong Kong and China have now collected 14 points but the mainlanders prevailed with a superior goal difference. They will host Qatar in Xian next week looking for a win that could can see them become one of the four best second-placed teams across the eight qualification groups.
This would help them as they could then find themselves beginning their 2019 Asian Cup campaign in the third qualification round next year.
A late goal from Sebastian Soria killed off Hong Kong’s hopes of overcoming a 1-0 deficit after Qatar captain Hassan Al Haidos opened the scoring in the first half.
The Middle East nation, who had a perfect record in all their six previous matches, including a 3-2 win over Hong Kong at Mong Kok Stadium in September, were in a class of their own.
Their left back Abdelkarim Hassan, who scored against Hong Kong in the last game, mesmerised the visitors, repeatedly threatening the Hong Kong defence with his ball skills and powerful runs, setting up the first goal for Qatar.
Coach Kim Pan-gon, who had seven naturalised players in the starting line-up, including two newcomers Andy Russell and Roberto Affonson Jnr, had no complaint about this result nor the entire tournament.
“We had a good start to the qualification tournament with naturalised players joining the team from time to time,” said the coach. “Today the players did their best to try to qualify for the next stage but we failed. We have to accept the result but more importantly we need to analyse all our performances as we prepare for the future.”
Captain Yapp Hung-fai accepted Qatar were clearly the better side. “We have learned there is a big gap against strong teams and this is important as we are looking for improvement,” said the goalkeeper. “Overall, we cannot be too disappointed although it is not a good result.”