News ID: 262381
Published: 0307 GMT December 02, 2019

Xavi backs Qatar to impress at World Cup after Afif award

Xavi backs Qatar to impress at World Cup after Afif award

Barcelona legend and Al Sadd coach Xavi backed host Qatar to make an impression at the next World Cup after exciting forward Akram Afif was named Asian Player of the Year on Monday.

Doha-based Xavi, who collected the award on Afif's behalf at the AFC Annual Awards in Hong Kong, said the Qataris would be competitive in 2022 "for sure," AFP reported.

Japan's Saki Kumagai was rewarded for a glittering career for club and country as she was named Women's Player of the Year at the ceremony.

Afif, 23, made a record 10 assists as Qatar stormed to its first AFC Asian Cup title in February, reaping the rewards of heavy investment in its national setup as the World Cup looms.

Afif also helped Xavi's Al Sadd reach the AFC Champions League semifinals, where it lost to Saudi eventual winner Al Hilal 6-5 on aggregate.

"I think they are working very well, they are competing against very big countries," Xavi, who won the 2010 World Cup with Spain, said of Qatar.

"I think they have a very good team and also a very good coach. They are well organized on the pitch and they have a very good generation of players... Many players that can make the difference on the pitch.

"They are working really well and they can compete in 2022 for sure."

Afif, who beat Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand and Japan defender Tomoaki Makino to the honor, is the second Qatari in a row to win the men's prize after defender Abdelkarim Hassan last year.

"Very happy to be selected as the Asian Player of the Year. This is a great honor for me," tweeted Afif, who is on national duty in Qatar.

With the top men's award off-limits to anyone based outside Asia, South Korea's Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min was named International Player of the Year.



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