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Qatar defiant as UAE tries to ban star players for Asian Cup final

Qatar trounced the UAE in Tuesday's semi-final Asian Cup match. [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 January, 2019

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Following a midweek humiliation on the pitch, the UAE has formally questioned the eligibility of two of Qatar's star players ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup final against Japan.
Qatar's football coach says his team remain focused on the "most important match in the country's football history" amid attempts by the UAE to disqualify two of their star players ahead of the Asian Cup final.

The UAE on Thursday formally questioned the eligibility of 22-year-old Almoez Ali and Iraqi-born defender Bassam al-Rawi, 21.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed that a protest had been received from the UAE FA regarding two players and that it would be "reviewed in line with the AFC Regulations".

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from either the UAE or the Qatar FA.

Star striker Ali, who was born in Sudan, scored his record-equalling eighth goal of the tournament in a 4-0 thrashing of the UAE on Tuesday.

"We are only focused on the game we're going to play tomorrow, any other things not related to football is not in our minds at the moment," Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez told Reuters.

Asked whether the UAE protest would serve as added motivation for his players he said: "My players need no more motivation than to play an Asian Cup final."

"This is most important game in Qatar's football history," he said, ahead of the final against Japan on Friday.

Qatar erupted in celebration after Tuesday's semi-final Asian Cup victory over the UAE, with the humiliating drubbing coming amid a backdrop of political tensions.

The highly-charged match was played in the UAE's capital, with Qatar's players welcomed by a barrage of boos as they walked onto the pitch.

Emirati fans also hurled shoes and drinks at the Qatari players during goal celebrations.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and economic ties with gas-rich Qatar, accusing it of links to extremist groups.

Qatar has consistently denied the allegations and repeatedly called for dialogue to end the crisis

Gulf states also ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens, with the UAE announcing draconian jail terms of 15 years for anyone who expressed sympathy with Qatar.

As a result of the blockade, almost no Qatari fans or media have been allowed in the UAE to support and report on their team's road to the final.

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