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Qatar eye 2019 Asian Cup after Gulf Cup campaign

Qatar forward Hassan el Haidous. (Photo: Kuwait FA)

KUWAIT CITY, January 2, 2017 - Qatar will aim to prepare a quality squad for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, coach Felix Sanchez said after his team went out of the Gulf Cup in Kuwait on Friday.

On Friday, Bahrain qualified for the Gulf Cup semi-finals after holding defending champions Qatar 1-1 in a thrilling contest at Jaber Al Ahmed Stadium.

Captain Hassan Al Haydos hit the target with a penalty for Qatar in the first half but it was Ali Jafaar Madan who scored the equazlier that powered Bahrain into the last-four stage of the tournament.

Iraq (7 points) and Bahrain (5 points) topped Group B. Qatar, winners in 2014, finished in third place with 4 points from three matches. Yemen ended the tournament without a win in three matches.

Qatar opened the tournament with a 4-0 win over Yemen but lost to Iraq 2-1 in a feisty contest last Tuesday.

"The next competition is the Asian Cup. Obviously, the national team is going to prepare for this competition so that we have a good team. We have to arrive in good condition to get the good results," Sanchez said after the match.

Sanchez said his team had the chances to turn things around in the do-or-die clash on Friday.

"We had our chances. We did excellent in the first half. We had good options to finish well, especially on the crossing but it didn't work. In the last 15 minutes, we tried to change things to win the game but we could not," Sanchez said.

"There was pressure and we decided to change things. We decided to play more direct. We were the team to beat in the tournament.

"It is a young team. A lot of them have experience of playing international games with the national team of with the club but today there was a lot of pressure. They are used to deal with that (pressure) but today it was not our day," the Qatar coach added.

"In the second half, they were pressing. They controlled the situation. In the end the minutes just went and the game was over. Every time it is more difficult to come back when there is pressure," he said.

Sanchez said he was not going to blame the players for not reaching the semi-finals of a tournament they had won in 2014 in Saudi Arabia.

"Obviously we did not qualify and I have responsibility for that. When you lose (as a coach), it is your responsibility," the Spaniard said.

Bahrain coach Miroslav Soukup was full of praise of Qatar's strength at the regional's premier football tournament.

"We played against the strongest opponents of this tournament. We must know that Qatar were the defending champions," Soukup said after the tense match. "They won in 2014.

"We were playing a strong team. They are a strong side. They have good players. They have tall players. In the last 6-7 minutes, they made it difficult for us to catch them by set pieces," he added.

"Our reason to reach the semi-finals is because we played the way we played against Iraq. I want to tell my team that they fought well. We need to do well against the strong teams," the Serbian said.

"(Before the game) I just told my players 'I am not worried about the result if you repeat the performance against Iraq'. I know only good teams can repeat their good performances. So I am happy that my players repeated that performance and play with their heart.

"We qualified because we have 12 players on the pitch. The 11 on the field and the 12th were the fans. They travelled such a great distance to support us. I respect them. They help us. They support is always there. Without their support, we could not have qualified," he added.

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