Jordan Vs Qatar In Asian Cup Final, Nigeria To Take On Ivory Coast In AFCON Final

Published on 8 February 2024 at 20:00

Two of continental football's most exciting and engaging international tournaments in recent memory come to an end this weekend, with two must-see finals set to take place. Host nation Qatar will be looking to retain the Asian Cup against an underdog Jordan side, meanwhile the formidable Nigeria will be looking to end AFCON hosts Ivory Coast's hopes of giving their cinderella story of a tournament a happy ending. 


Qatar have been the most consistent team in the Asian Cup over the last few weeks, outlasting pre-tournament favourites like Australia, South Korea and Japan to make it to the final: after topping their group with a 100% record, a narrow 2-1 win over Palestine in the round of 16 rewarded them with a quarter-final tie against dark horses Uzbekistan: Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham was the hero in the shootout as Qatar progressed 3-2. 


It was in the semis that Qatar faced their toughest test yet: a dangerous Iran side with the returning Mehdi Taremi, who had just knocked out Japan in the previous round. In an end-to-end affair, it was the hosts who edged out yet another win, sending home perhaps the most dangerous team in the competition and putting themselves in a prime position to retain the Asian Cup, looking to be the first country in 20 years to do so. 


Jordan meanwhile emerged as the surprise package of the tournament: the greatest beneficiaries of the underperforming favourites, a thrilling 3-2 win over Iraq in the round of 16 saw them face fellow outsiders Tajikistan for a chance in the semi-finals. Fearsome, valiant defending from Jordan has been the story of their tournament keeping clean sheets in both the 1-0 win over Tajikistan, and then a shock 2-0 win over South Korea saw them through to their first ever Asian Cup final. 


Saturday night's final is set to take place in front of a packed Lusail Stadium: with a capacity of 88,000 and the stadium of the hosts themselves, it may take a truly mammoth effort from Jordan to stop Tintin Marquez's team from lifting the Asian Cup high once again.


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Crossing over continents to Africa, and two giants will play each other to cap off what's been a captivating, chaotic tournament. Heading into the tournament, Nigeria was regarded as having the best attack, but it's been their defence that has stolen the show. The likes of Troost-Ekong and Bassey have been two of the stars of the entire competition, with the former's composure and precision from the pen spot being a welcome addition to the already feared Nigerian goalscoring threat. 


Despatching of Cameroon and Angola without much trouble, Nigeria looked on the brink of elimination at the hands of South Africa in the semi-finals, just holding on to secure a penalty shootout, where the South African keeper Ronwen Williams couldn't repeat his earlier heroics, as Nigeria booked their place in Sunday night's final. 


For the host nation, their tournament looked doomed by the end of the group: finishing third and being embarrassed by Equatorial Guinea 4-0 on home soil, the Elephants only survived by virtue of being the fourth best third place team in the competition. 


A rare mid-tournament sacking of Head Coach Jean-Louis Gasset forced Ivory Coast into a dire situation heading into their round of 16 match against reigning champions Senegal. But by some miracle, this re-motivated began to play the heralded Ivory Coast teams of recent memory: beating an impressive resume of opponents in Senegal, Mali and DR Congo, and with the talismanic Sebastien Haller returning to goalscoring form at just the right time, the hosts head into Sunday's final with a very strong chance of upsetting the odds once again. 


It's important to remember that the two side have already met in this year's AFCON: the Super Eagles won 1-0 thanks to a second half penalty from Troost-Ekong. But there is a sizeable difference between where these two teams were at the beginning of the tournament compared to now: whereas the Asian Cup final has a clear favourite and underdog, the AFCON final is once again simply too close to call.


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on X/Twitter and Instagram)


Image Credit: Mehdi Bolourian/


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