Doha, Qatar: Qatar coach Felix Sanchez lauded his players for their fighting spirit and keeping their faith which helped them come from two goals down to hold Paraguay in their first match of Copa America on Sunday.
“We dominated the game in several phases and despite being 2-0 down the team never stopped believing,” said Sanchez.
Asian champions Qatar, making their first-ever appearance in the Copa America as an invitee team, got off to a nightmare start as they conceded a penalty in the third minute after a Bruno Valdez header struck Portuguese-born full-back Pedro Miguel's arm.
Down by Óscar Cardozo’s goal from the penalty spot in three minutes, Qatar showed remarkable spirit to take the game to the Paraguayans and they could have easily taken the lead in the first half had Almoez Ali, Abdulaziz Hatem and captain Hassan Al Haydous showed converted the chances that came their way.
To make matters worse, Paraguay doubled their lead when Derlis González scored a stunner, but Al Annabi have shown tremendous courage to fight against the odds in the Asian Cup they did exactly that.
Almoez made amends for his earlier miss with a cracking goal in the 68th minute and Boualem Khoukhi equalised ten minutes later after another delightful passing move also involving Hatem, Akram Afif and Almoez. Though Khoukhi’s toe-poke, after he ran down a through ball from Afif, hit the goalkeeper’s flailing leg it still was moving goalwards and backtracking Paraguay defender Rodrigo Rojas succeeded only in putting the ball into the roof of the net.
"It's a fair result, we deserved the point," said Sanchez, who was all praise for his players for "keeping the faith" and "showing the desire to go after the game, that was the most positive thing for us."
Paraguay’s coach, Eduardo Berizzo, meanwhile, criticised his side for failing to keep possession. “Our midfield was not capable of holding on to the ball. We really struggled to play our usual style,” he said.
“We were facing a very good team and we needed to construct more plays in midfield. The result is both a prize and a punishment for what we did in the game.”