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Back Goal machine Ali continues to shine for Qatar

Qatar are absolutely flying in AFC qualifying for FIFA World Cup 26, thanks in no part to legendary forward Almoez Ali. The 27-year-old has racked up a qualification high seven goals in just four games – including a four-goal haul against Afghanistan – which has seen the The Maroons soar into the second round of qualifying in double-quick time.

Ali’s natural position is at the focal point of the attack for both Qatar and club side Al-Duhail, though his supreme speed and dribbling ability mean he is more than capable of playing out wide when needed. His excellent movement and physicality also help him stand out, but his key attribute is his cold-blooded nature in front of goal.

Since the start of 2023, he has netted 12 times for the national side, helping them to a second consecutive AFC Asian Cup as well as a third round berth in World Cup qualifying.

Ali’s breakthrough as one of his continent’s finest came at the previous edition of the Asian Cup. There, he played a pivotal role in Qatar’s maiden Asian title with nine goals, breaking the single-tournament record of eight set by Ali Daei in 1996.

Some four years later, with Qatar hosting the 2023 edition, all eyes were on Ali, who needed just five goals to break Daei’s tournament record of 14. He got off to a great start with a goal in the host’s 3-0 win over Lebanon in the opening match, but he failed to find the target in the following four games, as team-mate Akram Afif assumed goalscoring responsibilities.

Ali would, however, pop up with an 82nd-minute winner in their semi-final against IR Iran, setting up a showpiece bout against Jordan. After the semi-final, he admitted that the pressure of living up to the fans’ expectations at the tournament had weighed heavily on him, telling beIN Sport, “I’ve been under a lot of pressure because I scored nine goals at the last tournament, but repeating that was never going to be easy.”

Qatar would repeat their victory of 2019, though, as an Afif-inspired side defeated Jordan 3-1 to become the first nation to maintain the title since Japan in 2004.

Ali’s scoring heroics, which have seen him find the net more than 50 times for his country already, have stretched further than his home continent. After winning the Asian Cup in 2019, Qatar were invited to compete in the Copa America, where Ali netted in a draw with Uruguay as his side reached the semi-finals.

Two years later, Ali and his team-mates were packing their bags again, this time heading to the USA to compete in the Concacaf Gold Cup. Qatar would once again make it to the semi-finals, before losing 1-0 to the hosts. Ali proved his brilliance once more, netting four goals to become the first player to score at three different continental competitions (the Asian Cup, Copa America and Gold Cup).

Ali’s performances have caught eyes aplenty over the last five years, including those of legendary coach Jose Mourinho. After Qatar beat Saudi Arabia in the 2019 Asian Cup, the Portuguese said, “I wasn’t surprised by his ability. I’ve watched his last two games, and he’s such a fluid, fast player with an eye for goal. He’s exciting to watch.”

The next step for Ali to prove his goalscoring brilliance on the world stage. While he failed to find the net during Qatar’s home World Cup in 2022, Ali’s form since makes it hard to bet against him breaking his duck if The Maroons make it to back-to-back global finals.

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