Akram Afif scored three penalties in the 3-1 victory over Jordan, earning him three individual awards: player of the match, most valuable player of the tournament, and top scorer with eight goals.

Opposition coaches who have faced him have praised his skills, with Tajikistan’s Petar Segrt saying that it was only a matter of time and whether the 27-year-old Al-Sadd forward wanted to return to Europe.

Since leading Qatar to the 2019 title with a tournament record of 10 assists, Afif has become one of Asia’s most feared players.

At the beginning of this tournament, he expressed his dreams of returning to Europe, having previously played for Eupen in the Belgian Pro League.

Soccer Football – AFC Asian Cup – Final – Jordan v Qatar – Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar – February 10, 2024 Qatar’s Akram Afif with Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani after winning the AFC Asian Cup. Photo: Reuters

He later became the first Qatari player to be signed by a LaLiga club when he moved to Villarreal in 2016, but he was loaned out to Sporting Gijon before returning to Eupen and finally to Al-Sadd in 2018.

He has since developed and is arguably playing at his peak based on his Asian Cup performances.

“I talked about becoming a professional player (in Europe). But it’s not me who decides. My wife also has to make the decision for me. It’s not easy to leave the club and country,” Afif told reporters after the final.

But he added: “I’d love to become a professional player (in Europe) … I’d say I would love to go.”


For now, Afif will enjoy helping Qatar become only the fifth country to successfully defend their Asian Cup crown.

“We’re happy and we will enjoy until the next Asian Cup. Then we’ll see what happens,” he added.

Coach Marquez Lopez was appointed only in December when Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz abruptly left the national team.

But Lopez, who came from Qatari side Al-Wakrah, managed to implement his philosophy despite taking charge less than a month before the Asian Cup. The Spaniard did not indicate whether he would stay in the job long-term.

“What will happen is I’ll go back to Al-Wakrah. I haven’t discussed the future,” Lopez said.

“I took charge only recently, but what was most important was that I knew the players, and they quickly implemented my ideas.

“In some matches, we didn’t perform at our best, but in others, we exceeded expectations.”

Soccer Football – AFC Asian Cup – Final – Jordan v Qatar – Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar – February 10, 2024 Qatar’s Akram Afif celebrates with the trophy for player of the tournament. Photo: Reuters