Ayeni Olusegun
Qatar made a dream Copa America debut in Brazil as goals from Almoez Ali and Boualem Khoukhi sealed a 2-2 comeback draw for the Asian champions against two-time winners Paraguay at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
The result means Qatar are tied second in Group B with Paraguay ahead of Argentina who are bottom of the group – Colombia, who shocked La Albiceleste 2-0 to sit atop with three points.
Paraguay surged ahead with a thumping penalty from veteran striker Oscar Cardozo after Pedro Miguel’s handball in the box in the third minute.
Qatar, however, could have equalised in the 15th minute but Almoez Ali’s touch from a Abdelkarim’s Hassan’s cross flew narrowly wide off the mark.
Qatar kept possession of the ball but failed to fashion a clear cut chance as custodian Saad al Sheeb was called into action and he responded with a good save.
Abdulaziz Hatem saw his shot bounce off the body of Fernandez Torres in goal as Haydos’s lofted pass found the Al Gharafa man alone in the box.
Abdelkarim continued his foray down the left again and was picked out after a lovely exchange of passes in the midfield but his shot blazed harmlessly over the bar.
Just before the halftime whistle, Almoez was played through on goal but the Al Duhail man fired straight at the goalkeeper from point-blank range.
Cardozo thought he had doubled Paraguay’s lead five minutes into the second half but the strikers effort was ruled out for an offside after VAR consultation. The South Americans, however, got their second when substitute Derlis Gonzalez pwered home from long range past Al Sheeb in goal.
As Qatar continued to press for a goal, Almoez lived up to his billing and delivered in the 67th minute.
The 2019 Asian Cup top goalscorer exchanged passes with Tarek Salman, turned his marker and unleashed a curler into the top corner of Fernandez’s post.
Qatar weren’t done and Boualem Khoukhi equalised for the visitors 13 minutes from time. Almoez and Afif combined just outside the box before Afif slipped in a pass for Khoukhi to latch on to – his effort came off the goalkeeper but had just enough power to roll into the net.
Al Annabi will now take on Colombia at the Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo on Thursday.standings: Group BTEAM MP W D L GF GA GD Pts
Colombia 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 3
Paraguay 1 0 1 0 2 2 0 1
Qatar 1 0 1 0 2 2 0 1
Argentina 1 0 0 1 0 2 -2 0