By Sports Reporter/Rio de Janeiro
Qatar coach Felix Sanchez yesterday termed his team’s 2-2 draw against Paraguay a ‘positive result’.
Almoez Ali and Bualem Khoukhi scored in the second half as Qatar rallied for a 2-2 draw at the iconic Maracana Stadium.
It was Qatar’s first match in their maiden appearance in Copa America.
“In the first half there was not enough attention from my players. But we reacted differently in the second. I would say it was a positive result,” Sanchez said after the match.
“The team effort was good in the second half. We got support from the fans and the presence of the fans helped us to work well on the pitch and gave boost to the players. The enthusiasm was great and the players gave a good performance,” the Spaniard added.
Sanchez said the playing pattern witnessed in Sunday’s clash against Paraguay was similar to the one seen in Qatar’s friendly against Brazil.
“We should improve as we go long,” Sanchez said. “We managed to own the game in the second half. We scored twice and that showed our fighting spirit. The players showed great will to score under pressure.
“Like I said this is a positive result. We played similar football in the Asian Cup and won that title.
“The level of Al Annabi was good and the goals scored were also good. We started the match badly. So Paraguay team came forward but then we controlled the match.
“We saw the Colombia match. They played well against Argentina. We will try for wins in our next two matches.
“We will continue to try and improve. We will look for positive results. We want to be in front.”
Sanchez added that Lionel Messi’s presence in the Argentinian team will further motivate Qatar when they take them on in their last Group B match on July 23.
“We know Messi is playing here and that’s why we want to do well against the better players and better teams,” he said.
“But for now we can focus on Colombia and then we can think about match against Argentina. We will arrive prepared,” he said.
In the match, an Oscar Cardozo penalty and a stunning Denis Gonzalez strike gave the South Americans a 2-0 lead in Rio de Janeiro but goals from Almoez Ali and Khoukhi in the final quarter snatched a share of the Group B spoils for the tournament debutants.
It left the sides two points behind Group B leaders Colombia, who opened their account with a 2-0 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Saturday.
Tournament invitees Qatar made a disastrous start with a defensive mix up in the first minute causing panic in their own area.
The Asian champions survived but Paraguay kept the pressure on and a couple of minutes later had won a penalty for handball after a Bruno Valdez header struck Portuguese-born full-back Pedro Miguel’s arm.
Cardozo hammered the resulting spot kick straight down the middle of the goal to give Paraguay a fourth-minute lead.
Qatar were neat and tidy in possession but initially lacked the cutting edge and ruthlessness that Paraguay showed.
The South Americans threatened to double their lead but Fabian Balbuena headed over and Hernan Perez forced a smart save from goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb.
Paraguay looked to have doubled their lead on 51 minutes when Cardozo turned home a Miguel Almiron cross, but VAR adjudged Gonzalez to have been offside in the build-up.
Five minutes later, though, Gonzalez himself scored the second with a screamer from 25 yards into the top corner.
Qatar were back in it halfway through the second period with a special strike of their own as Ali’s shot from the corner of the 18-yard box took a nick off a defender’s foot and arched over Fernandez into the top corner, drawing cheers from the sparse crowd inside the Maracana stadium.
And the Asian champions were level 13 minutes from time after opening up the Paraguay defence with a slick passing move.
Akram Afif slipped in Algerian-born Khoukhi, running in at an angle between full-back and centre-back.
His finish hit Fernandez’s knee and ballooned up into the air where the back tracking Rodrigo Rojas attempted to head it off the line but succeeded only in putting the ball into the roof of the net and then injured himself falling into the goal.
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