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Kuwait coach plays down 10-time champions chances in Gulf Cup

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Iraq stun Qatar as Gulf Cup kicks off

Fireworks as opening ceremony starts for 24th Gulf Cup in Doha

DOHA/KUWAIT CITY, Nov 26: Iraq stunned Qatar  2-1 in the opening match of the 24th Gulf Cup at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha. Mohammad Qasim scored a quick brace in the 19 and 27 minutes of the game after Iraq withstood an early onslaught by the hosts.

Abdulaziz Hateem reduced the deficit in the 49th minute to give the hosts some hope, but the Iraqis held on for the victory.

Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim with officials of the National soccer team – (KUNA)

Qatar started the game strongly with a 4-4-2 formation, consisting of Sa’ad Shabib as the goalkeeper, supported in the defense by Peru Miguel, Abdul-Kareem Hassan, Tareq Salman and Hassan Al-Haidous. The midfield was covered by Bassam Al-Rawi, Yousef Abdul-Razzaq, Kareem Budhaif and Al-Muiz Ali. The formation was completed in the attack line by the duo of Akram Afif and Buallam Khoukhi.

On the contrary, the Iraqis played a 4-3-3 formation with Jalal Hassan manning the goal post. In the defense were Maitham Jabbar, Ahmad Ibrahim, Moustafa Mohammad and Ali Adna, while the midfielders included Mohammad Redha, Sherif Al-Kazemi and Hassan Al-Jamali. The trio of Ibrahim Bayeh, Mohammad Qasim and Mhannad Ali were in the attack.

Earlier HH the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani inaugurated the 24th Gulf Cup being held in Doha from Nov 26 to Dec 8, 2019.

HH Sheikh Tamim welcomed the participating teams whose number increased to eight countries after the announcement of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that they will join the competition.

The fireworks and laser display started after the official inauguration ceremony with Qatari artiste Ghanim Al-Selaiti delivering a speech in which he affirmed the bond between Gulf countries.

Qatar Folklore Band presented a traditional performance which lasted for seven minutes in the midst of remarkable applause from the audience.

The celebration included a show depicting memorable moments in the last 23 editions of the competition; especially those held in Qatar in 1976, 1992 and 2004.

Former head of Qatar Football Association and Asian Football Federation Muhammad bin Hammam Al-Abdullah expects stiff competition between the teams, pointing out that it is too difficult to predict the winner.

Meanwhile, Kuwait coach Thamer Anad played down his team’s chances in the Arabian Gulf Cup that kicks off in Qatar on Tuesday, as the Kuwaitis continue their return to international competition after long suspensions that have hurt sport in the country.

Soccer’s governing body FIFA in December 2017 lifted a suspension order on Kuwait that it imposed in 2015 over what it called government interference in the game.

In August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) lifted its separate ban on Kuwait after nearly four years. It had banned the country over a new sports law that it said interfered with the autonomy of the Olympic movement.

“I think everyone knows the conditions of the Kuwaiti team, the four-year suspension, the Kuwaiti sports problems,” Anad told a news conference ahead of Kuwait’s opening Group B match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

“This certainly affected the sporting level of all the games, and even on the youth stages we saw a total absence of Kuwaiti teams for four years.”

“After suspension, there has to be a rebuilding process of teams in all sports,” said Anad, who took over in September following the dismissal of Croatian coach Romeo Jozak after defeat to Australia in the World Cup qualifiers.

“Kuwait are not favourites because of problems and suspension, (but) we are able to return Kuwait to its position.”

The country has won the competition a record ten times. It will face a weakened Saudi Arabia team playing without Al-Hilal players on Wednesday after the club’s Asian Champions League match in Japan on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia said two weeks ago that it would join the regional tournament, having initially decided to skip its 24th edition, which is being held in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in mid-2017 over accusations that it supported terrorism. Doha denies the charge.

The Saudi team were also hit by an injury to right-back Mohamed Al-Buraik incurred in Al-Hilal’s 2-0 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds in the Asian final’s second leg. Separately, Al-Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Owais withdrew from the squad after suffering a serious facial injury in a league match on Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter if we have some problems at the moment, but we have to deal well with these games and this is the most important thing. After the first game we will see what we can expect,” Saudi coach Herve Renard told reporters.

“Most of the players played on Saturday and Sunday (in the league)… but this is football. (Al-Nassr defender Abdullah) Madu was also injured, but this is part of football and we have to deal with it even if we don’t play with our best team”.

Oman coach Erwin Koeman said he was aiming to take his team to the final of the Arabian Gulf Cup.

Defending champions Oman begin their campaign against Bahrain in Group B on Wednesday, and Koeman said his team also needs some luck.

“The expectations are always high, especially when you are the defending champions, but this is not a problem. I think we are ready and like any team we need some luck as well,” the Dutchman told reporters.

By Saifuldein Mansour and Agencies

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