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Qatar’s Almoez pick of the bunch in Asian Cup for young forwards

Qatar’s Almoez pick of the bunch in Asian Cup for young forwards

DPA
Abu Dhabi
Almoez Ali has written his name in big letters at the Asian Cup in the UAE but the Qatar striker is merely the pick of a handful of young forwards all making a name for themselves.
“I don’t think about the golden boot, I am thinking to win the competition. First the team, then my achievements,” he told broadcaster beIN Sports.
Ali had just netted a double to down arch-rivals Saudi Arabia 2-0 to ensure Qatar, hosts of the World Cup in 2022, progressed as winners of Group E and the three-time champion Saudis were left as runners-up.
That followed a goal against Lebanon in the opening game and a record-equalling four against North Korea.
While the 22-year-old Ali may not be thinking about the golden boot trophy for the competition’s top scorer, it is almost certainly his already - the last to score more than seven in a single tournament was Iranian great Ali Daei in 1996.
“Of course, I am playing as striker and I have to kill the teams, this comes from the good work with my team,” he said. “I scored the goals but we all worked together.”
While football in Qatar does not yet match the standard in Europe, or even some other Asian leagues, the money invested to make the team competitive for 2022 is bringing a return.
Sudan-born Ali came through the Aspire Academy and though a first crack at Europe, with Linz in Austria and then the Spanish lower-leagues failed, he thrived on his return to Al Duhail in Doha.
Capable of finishing well with both feet, good in the air and constantly on the move, scouts will have plenty in their notebooks on him when they report back to their clubs after the tournament.
Were it not for Ali, Uzbekistan striker Eldor Shomurodov would top the scoring chart on four goals ahead of his next chance to impress against champions Australia in the last 16.
The 23-year-old Rostov forward has been in dazzling form so far to net in each of his side’s group games against Oman, Turkmenistan and Japan.
Media reports have linked a host of European clubs with Iraq teenager Mohanad Ali, who is officially the youngest player at the UAE.
While there is some dubiety over the Al-Shorta attacker’s official age of 18, there has been no doubt about his two goals and high quality of overall play.
“After his performances with the Iraq national team, it is only natural that there is enormous interest in Mohanad Ali, as well as some of the biggest clubs in the Arabic countries”, his agent Christian Emile told Football Insider.
“However, we are calm and will make a decision when the time is right. For now, the player’s focus is fully on the Asian Cup.”
Iran’s Sardar Azmoun, 24, has three goals from the group phase ahead of his team’s meeting with Oman on Sunday and is only likely to improve as the effect of a pre-tournament injury wears off.
“What is the most important is that we keep progressing in the tournament,” he said, dismissing personal ambition in favour of Iran ending a 43-year wait to lift the Asian Cup.
Youth, however, is not everything. The only other player to have scored three times so far is Kyrgyzstan’s Vitalij Lux, thanks to a hat-trick against the Philippines. The 29-year-old journeyman has spent his career in the German lower leagues.

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