Akram Afif scores hat-trick of penalties as Qatar beat Jordan in 2023 Asian Cup final

Akram Afif scores hat-trick of penalties as Qatar beat Jordan in 2023 Asian Cup final

Akram Afif was the hero as Qatar beat Jordan to win the 2023 Asian Cup.

They were surprise champions four years ago and were once again unfancied to retain their crown on home soil, yet a tale of three penalties saw them lift the cup with a 3-1 victory at Lusail Stadium on Saturday.

Jordan, this edition’s dark horses, had already shocked Iraq and South Korea in the knockouts and were positive in a fast-paced start to the game from both teams.

However, Al Sadd striker Afif was clearly the biggest danger man on the pitch from the word go and he got the better of Abdallah Nasib to dart into the box 20 minutes in and win a penalty, which he slotted home.

It took until stoppage time in the first half for Jordan to bounce back, with the best of a few half chances denied by a strong block by Mohammed Waad on Musa Al-Taamari’s shot.

Qatar are Asian Cup champions again (AP)
Qatar are Asian Cup champions again (AP)

Montpellier winger Al-Taamari was electric in the semis but lacked the decisive end product as Qatar began to settle in and play for time. However, Jordan pulled level on 67 minutes when Yazan Al-Naimat slammed home a cross at the far post.

The stage was set for the team ranked 87th in the world to spring another major upset yet Afif inevitably emerged as the matchwinner.

This time, VAR was called upon to review a Qatari attacker being taken out by Mahmoud Al-Mardhi’s loose leg and the hosts were handed an instant chance to reclaim the lead, which Afif took with aplomb.

As 13 minutes of stoppage time began, the game was put to rest after a quick ball over the top caught Jordan’s defence napping and Yazeed Abulaila was adjudged by a second VAR review to have taken Afif out in a one-on-one.

Up stepped the 27-year-old to seal his hat-trick from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and capping a sublime performance as Qatar successfully defended their Asian Cup crown.