Qatar, UAE to play politically-charged Asian Cup semifinal

The Associated Press

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will meet in a politically-charged semifinal at the Asian Cup after they knocked out the two favorites Friday.

Since June 2017, the UAE has been part of a quartet of nations leading an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar. The standoff has impacted Qatar's logistics at the Asian Cup in the UAE but not its performances on the field.

Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host nation, reached the last four of Asia's continental showpiece for the first time by beating two-time champion South Korea 1-0. The UAE defeated title-holder Australia by the same score to set up a meeting with Qatar in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

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The other semifinal is on Monday in Al Ain with Japan taking on Iran.

South Korea's exit is good news for Tottenham as forward Son Heung-min can rejoin his injury-hit English Premier League club earlier than expected.

Qatar is the surprise package of the tournament, scoring 12 goals without conceding and notching five straight wins.

''It was a big day for us,'' coach Felix Sanchez said. ''We achieved something that is history for us so I just want to congratulate everyone.''

In Abu Dhabi, midfielder Abdelaziz Hatim hit the only goal for Qatar with a left-foot shot from outside the area in the 78th minute. South Korea's best chance came a minute earlier when Kim Jin-su hit the post from a free kick.

In Al Ain, the UAE avenged its 2015 semifinal loss to Australia. Ali Ahmed Mabkhout pounced on a defensive blunder to claim his fourth goal of the tournament and spark wild celebrations at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.

''We said from the beginning that we don't have the ambition to play attractive football,'' said Mabkhout. ''If it comes with a win, that's okay. The important thing for us is to get results. The other things aren't important.''

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