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Qatar eye top spot as they take on Saudi Arabia

Al Ain, UAE: Qatar will be keen to continue their dazzling start to the Asian Cup campaign when they take on Saudi Arabia in their final Group E match on Thursday.

With two victories, against Lebanon (2-0) and North Korea (6-0) and a goal difference of eight to that of their rivals’ six, Qatar need just a draw to seal top spot in the group and Felix Sanchez’s men would want to make sure that they don’t lose their momentum.

"We are doing exactly the same as we have for the other games but we know it is a match which will decide top spot. We will plan well, as we did for the other matches, as we want to win the group,” said Sanchez at the pre-match media conference. “It is going to be a tough game but hopefully, we can get the result we desire."

If Sanchez and Qatar get a positive result, they will take on Iraq in the last sixteen while Group F winners — either Japan or Uzbekistan — will be their opponents if they lose.

Sanchez said Qatar's confidence has been boosted by their two comfortable wins, with Almoez Ali scoring four goals against North Korea and Akram Afif, his strike partner, setting up all of those.

"We are very proud of our performance, especially in the last game. It was a very good result but we must keep looking forward.

"The focus now is on Saudi Arabia and we must plan for a good game tomorrow."

Sanchez also hailed his players for their determination to do well in the AFC Asian Cup.

"Their focus has been only on the tournament and they have been working very hard, before we came here and even now. The players are all progressing well and that is very important."

Sanchez will be hoping that Almoez and Afif continue with their form and if that happens Qatar will be quite a handful for any opponents.

In midfield, Sanchez fielded Abdulaziz Hatem in the second match in place of Karim Boudiaf who was ineffective against Lebanon before being substituted, but the Duhail midfielder is a better passer and could yet play a big role.

Assim Madibo and Boualem Khoukhi have been in fine form in midfield while the young central defensive pairing of Tarek Salman and Bassam Al Rawi, in whom Sanchez has a lot of confidence,  have been untroubled in defence. Al Rawi also has a stunning goal to his name.

Right back Pedro Miguel and Abdulkarim Hassan on the left are two powerhouses and Sanchez would be particularly happy that the AFC Player of the Year made a big difference against Lebanon after coming on as a substitute.

If Qatar can produce the same form they showed against the North Koreans, Hassan Al Haydous and co have a great chance of meeting Iraq in the last 16.

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