Almoez strikes form as Qatar find their groove
The young striker’s sublime form is great news for Qatar as they begin their qualification campaign with a big win.
Minutes after Qatar had demolished Afghanistan in their combined 2022 FIFA World Cup/2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifier on Thursday, hat-trick hero Almoez Ali was greeted by a special visitor on the pitch – a young fan who wanted his jersey. Soon, another supporter sprinted in to join the player, evading the security guards to take a selfie with him.
Almoez is fast getting used to this kind of attention. Football might be a team-game, but the scorers are the men who garner maximum accolades and limelight. And in Qatar these days, no one scores more goals than the supremely athletic and highly energetic Almoez.
His nine goals studded Qatar’s Asian Cup victory back in February, earning him the Most Valuable Player prize in the tournament. On Thursday at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd, Almoez seemed to continue from where he had left off, with three goals that left Afghanistan gasping.
The admiration from the fans was understandable, for they were witnessing in person what they had only seen on television a few months ago. Though marked down as a talent to watch out for at a young age, the Aspire Academy product had not been this prolific in the Qatar Stars League. The breakthrough came at the Asian Cup, when he scored four goals in the game against North Korea and then added a spectacular overhead kick in the final against Japan.
On Thursday, Qatar was looking for a quick start against Afghanistan and Almoez obliged with a lovely header for the first goal in the fourth minute. Six minutes later, he renewed his old partnership with Akram Afif to breach the Afghan defence for the second time. The 23-year-old then completed his hat-trick in the second half with a crisp and clean finish off a pass from Boulem Khoukhi.
In between, he was a constant menace to Afghanistan, drilling holes in their defence with his speed, strength and athleticism. In the second half, Almoez revealed another facet of his game, powering down the right flank and pulling the ball back for Khoukhi to net the fifth goal.
His growing maturity is good news for Qatar and also to coach Felix Sanchez, especially when Afif joins his mate in pulling down the opposition defences.
“Almoez and Akram have been playing together for the last seven years, so it’s normal the understanding they have,” Felix had said at the Asian Cup. “They know when one gets the ball the movement the other is going to do and it makes the connection easier.”
Thanks to Almoez’s blitz, Qatar are comfortably perched at the top of Group E with three points and a goal difference of plus-six after the first round of qualifiers.
Oman won the other group match of the day, defeating India 2-1.
Tougher matches will certainly come in the future, even though it is hard to see India stopping Qatar and a rampaging Almoez in their next game on September 10.
The Indian fans already expect the worst and a message on Twitter summed up the fear factor when it comes to the dangerous Qatari forward.
“Please show some mercy, rest Almoez Ali, please,” wrote a fan, only half in jest.
Qatar will not be in a mood to oblige, nor will Almoez.