Qatar and China are all set to clash in a long-awaited football match in the AFC Asian Cup. The game will be played at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday, with kick-off at 3 pm GMT.
For Tintin Marquez, his first job at this tournament is complete already as Qatar can rest easy knowing that they have already guaranteed a knockout stage for a second successive Asian Cup campaign. The tournament hosts have performed strongly on home soil lately and will be looking to wrap up their group-stage run on a high.
China, meanwhile, is on a four-game winless streak and has failed to score any goals in that period. Evidently, the stakes are higher for them approaching this match. A victory on Monday would send Aleksandar Jankovic’s men into the knockout stage for the third successive time at this tournament. While a defeat or even a draw may knock them out of the tournament depending on other results. China will not leave any stone unturned to avoid squandering this opportunity at hand.
It is going to be an enthralling battle, to say the least. However, we can’t deny that the maroons are in much better form ahead of Monday’s game.
Qatar is the defending champion and are the favorite of the tournament at this moment. Back-to-back victories and a remarkable five wins in their last six games across various competitions tells everything about their recent form. The only blemish in their recent record was a 2-1 field defeat against Jordan, an anomaly in an otherwise convincing streak of recent triumphs against Afghanistan, India, Lebanon, Tajikistan, and Cambodia.
China, on the other hand, struggles to boast a similar winning streak. In their last five games, they managed only one victorious outing, and that was against Thailand. Apart from that, China has faced defeats in all their home encounters against South Korea and Oman, alongside stalemate matches with Tajikistan and Lebanon.
Speaking of their head-to-head clashes, the footballing history between Qatar and China has spanned over four decades, with their first meeting dating back to the 1978 Asian Games. The competition has been pretty evenly poised since then. In fact, it might be surprisingly to note that China actually has the better of Qatar in their encounters. Among the 19 games between them, China has won seven, whereas Qatar has won six. The remaining six games were tied.
Akram Afif is the player to look out for. He is currently the joint-top scorer with three goals from the first two games. However, with Tintin Marquez apparently aiming to rotate the squad, it remains to be seen if he gets a chance to further his tally. Marquez has his entire squad at his disposal, except for Osamah Al Tairi, who is suffering from a ligament injury. As for China, the good news is that there are also no fresh injury issues in the team ahead of this encounter. Wu Xi has also recovered well from his sustained hamstring injury and will be aiming to start against Qatar.
China Predicted XI: Junling; Haofeng, Linpeng, Browning, Chenjie, Yang; Xi, Shangyuan, Liangming; Lei, Yuning
Qatar Predicted XI: Zakaria; Al-Rawi, Ro-Ro, Mendes, Ahmed; Meshaal, Al-Haydos, Waad; Al Ganehi, Ali, Abdurisag
Where the game will be decided
This game will be a test of patience for either of the teams. Qatar is a ball-playing team and will employ its customary possessive style of play, dictating the tempo and limiting China’s attacking opportunities.
Their build-up is methodically through the midfield, relying on short passes and quick combinations to find openings. Therefore, China can’t approach this game with an all-out attacking mindset because then it will create gaps in the midfield that Qatar is smart enough to dominate.
The primary essential for China would be to solidify the defensive stability. Having said that, they can’t afford to crawl back into their shells. They have to be brave enough and continue pressing to make Qatar uncomfortable on the ball. Both teams have to be clinical in front of goal and capitalize on the minute mistakes. It will be more of a mental than a tactical game. The team that holds their composure will come out on top.
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As of late, Qatar has really elevated its game performance, especially in its defensive approach. Overall, Qatar has conceded just twice in its last eight matches. In the AFC Asian Cup, Qatar has been virtually impenetrable, having all of its matches end with clean sheets. If they collect another one on Monday, it would be the second successive time that they complete an Asian Cup group stage without conceding.
On the flip side, China has been sloppy in its attacking prowess as they are yet to open the scoresheet in the competition. A lack of quality has been a recurring theme with this team for a few months now, with China scoring only once in its last five competitive fixtures. In 2024, China has a record of a meagre 0.7 goals per game. So, scoring against this Qatar team will be a mammoth task for them. We can sensibly presume that China won’t be able to score past the net of the Qatar defense.
On the other hand, there is no stopping the Qatar front line. In recent matches of 2024, Qatar has had 2.1 goals per match. They have been so clinical that they have even outperformed their xG of 1.74. These statistics are enough to make China shiver, given its defensive vulnerabilities. China has also conceded 1.20 goals per game. So, it is only justified that we can expect Qatar to score sometime during the game, at least once.
But the question remains – how many goals? Seven of the last eight matches between the two teams have produced fewer than 2.5 goals. The average between Qatar and China has been 1.4 goals. Given the fact that Tintin Marquez will aim to rotate his lineup, we won’t witness the customary attacking prowess of the match . So, it would be sensible to infer that even though we will witness goals, the total goals tally would be less than 2.5
In this context, an interesting fact opens up. In 7 of their last 8 matches between them, it has been only once that both teams have scored in the same match. Given the recent disparity in game form, we can predict that both teams won’t score in this match as well. The bias is tilted towards the maroon club to come out on top. All the points considered, it points toward a narrow victory with the scoreline presumably being 1-0.
Sure, possession will be dominated by the Qatar squad. However, at times this game could also be a scrappy and intense affair given how desperate China would be to come out on top. They know that the only way to stop the possessive football of Qatar would be by making significant tactical fouls. So, it becomes a smart option to predict upon. For Qatar, the average carded offense in the last 3 games has been 2.5, while for China, it has been 3 yellow cards, with 4 of them against South Korea alone. So, we can rightfully expect that this match will witness around 3 yellow cards.
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