Qatar’s Hassan braced for tougher tests

Al Ain: Reigning AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan is not expecting another easy ride at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 after helping Qatar brush aside DPR Korea in Al Ain on Sunday to move into pole position in Group E.
Hassan started the game after only featuring for the final 30 minutes of Qatar’s opening win against Lebanon and was among the scorers as Felix Sanchez’s side notched up a comfortable 6-0 victory over the east Asians.
Almoez Ali netted a record equalling four times while Boualem Khoukhi was also on the scoresheet as Qatar recorded their biggest-ever win at the AFC Asian Cup Finals, but with Saudi Arabia up next and then the Round of 16, Hassan knows the challenges ahead will be significantly greater.
“The good thing was that we finished the game early,” said Hassan. “We were comfortable in the second half and scored some more and we are through to the second round.
“DPR Korea gave up today and it was easy for us, but the second round won’t be easy. There are no weak teams there, all will be strong and tough games. We’re confident, we have qualified. If we had drawn today we would face problems but because we won our confidence has gone up and there’s less pressure on us.”
Sanchez’s team have shown glimpses of their potential so far at the AFC Asian Cup, with an impressive final 30 minutes against Lebanon followed by a confident performance against DPR Korea.
Hassan, though, is quick to dispel any suggestions that the Qataris are now among the favourites to win the title.
“We’re building a new team and there are a lot of younger players,” he said. “We cannot say we are coming here to be champions, we have to go game by game. That’s what we’re doing and in the next game against Saudi it will be the same. We will go game by game.”
Hassan was left out of the starting line-up for Qatar’s game against Lebanon due to a lingering knee injury, but the 25-year-old is now fully recovered and regaining the form that saw him named AFC Player of the Year for 2018.
Having impressed last year in the AFC Champions League with Al Sadd, he is now setting his sights on a move to Europe and hoping his performances at UAE 2019 will help him as he seeks to chase his dreams.
It’s a good thing for me, just to help me work and keep pushing,” he said of winning the award. “It’s good to have an individual trophy, but I have to forget it and push and keep going forward.
“I’m looking to achieve more, to go further than I am now. I’m looking to be in an European team, that’s a dream for me and I have to push at this tournament. We will see, I have to work hard.”