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Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

AFC Asian Cup, African Cup of Nations’ startling results shake world of soccer

Junior+Ehsan+Yousefi+watches+Iran+vs.+Japan+in+the+AFC+Asian+Cup+on+his+phone+during+school.+This+semifinal+game+will+determine+the+fate+of+Yousefi%E2%80%99s+team%2C+Iran%2C+in+the+tournament.+%E2%80%9CIran+dominated+the+second+half+of+the+game%2C%E2%80%9D+Yousefi+said.
Photo by Arshia Ahmadi
Junior Ehsan Yousefi watches Iran vs. Japan in the AFC Asian Cup on his phone during school. This semifinal game will determine the fate of Yousefi’s team, Iran, in the tournament. “Iran dominated the second half of the game,” Yousefi said.

Students saw their national soccer teams rise to victory or fall with unexpected losses in the AFC Asian Cup and the African Cup of Nations in the past weeks.

The AFC Asian Cup is a competition between 24 countries in the Asian Football Confederation. The competition occurs every four years and determines the champion senior mens’ soccer team in Asia. The 24 countries are divided into six groups of four national teams. The top two move to the elimination phase, whose winners move on to the quarterfinals, then to the semifinals, and finally the championship. The favorites to win in this tournament were Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran due to their past titles and proven performance in previous games including the 2023 World Cup. Japan, for example, has the most wins in the AFC Asian Cup with four championships.

This year’s season began with upsets in the group stages. Japan faced an unexpected loss against Iraq before recovering just enough to surpass the group stages. Their run in the AFC Asian Cup ended, however, with a devastating loss against Iran in the quarterfinal stage. The physicality on the Iranian side won them the game with an end-game penalty and a score of 2-1. This result was shocking since Japan was the favorite to take the Cup home.

The AFC Asian Cup was also colored with hopes of an underdog win, with Jordan, having been absent from the final stages of the cups for a long time, making it to the finals in their win against South Korea. Nothing came more unexpected in this cup than Iran’s semifinal loss against Qatar, with Iran having defeated the cup favorites in the quarterfinals. Though Iran missed critical chances, especially as Iranian player Alireza Jahanbakhsh hit the post during stoppage time, this semifinal game proved both sides played their best. The head-to-head game was finished by Qatar taking home the win with a late-game goal. “Iran losing the match despite hitting the post last second ruined my weekend,” junior Artin Noori said.

These games set the stage for the final match in the AFC Asian Cup, with Jordan and Qatar facing off in the battle to become the champions of Asia. Jordan’s critical fouls ultimately led to Qatar taking home the trophy with a score of 3-1 after the star player on the Qatar team, Akram Afif, got his team a penalty kick hat-trick. “I felt terrible for Jordan, having three penalties against you in one match, and not a regular match, it’s a final. So honestly, it was a shock,” senior Feras Sabbagh said.

The Qatar national team presents a promising future with this win, especially after an early elimination in the World Cup. Other national teams, such as Jordan and Iran, also displayed their promise in future competitions.

Within the soccer atmosphere, fans also witnessed the Africa Cup of Nations, known as the AFCON, which took place in Ivory Coast. This year, AFCON was played for the 2023 season as last year’s weather conditions in the Ivory Coast and COVID-19 regulations led to a long delay in the tournament.

This soccer competition also showcased new teams in the final stages of the tournament, such as South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as popular favorites and previous winners fell early in the competition. Tournament favorites, such as Egypt, Senegal, and Morocco, did not make it to the final stages of the matches. With South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo making their way to the semifinals, this year’s AFCON was quite different. Although these teams advanced to the semifinals, they were ultimately defeated by the superior teams like Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Nigeria coasted through the rounds to the finals despite early losses that earned the Portuguese coach José Peseiro heat from the Nigerian crowd. In the end, the AFCON victory went to Ivory Coast with their 81st-minute goal, gaining the lead against Nigeria and ending the game with a score of 2-1. Coming from a dismal group stage, and almost knocked out of the competition, Ivory Coast brought an unexpected win against Nigeria.

This win was received well by students at this school. “It was great to see Ivory Coast triumph over a Nigerian side that has already won the trophy multiple times,” junior Okash Nikibinge said.

Despite their ocean of responsibilities, it is comforting to know soccer competitions like these are a source of joy and pleasure for students.

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