DUBAI: Political rivals Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will clash next week in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup after both sprang surprise respective quarter-final victories against Australia and fancied South Korea.
Iran play Japan in the other semi-final.
Holders Australia crashed out to a controversial goal from Ali Mabkhout which earned the UAE hosts a 1-0 victory midway through the second half after Milos Degenek under-hit a pass back to Mat Ryan.
The Al Jazira man rounded the goalkeeper to score his ninth goal in two Asian Cup tournaments.
The Australians complained Degenek had been fouled prior to giving away possession by Mohammed Abdulrahman, but Japanese referee Ryuji Sato waved away the protests and the goal stood.
Australia coach Graham Arnold said: “Milos didn’t get a minute at the World Cup, but he has stepped up at this tournament and done fantastically well. Obviously he’s hurting at the moment but I’ll make sure he’s OK.
“He’s a fantastic kid, a fantastic professional and he’s got a long future with the Australian national team.”
Victory means Alberto Zaccheroni’s UAE side will move on to a potentially politically sensitive semi-final against Arabian Gulf neighbours Qatar, who earlier stunned South Korea 1-0.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
Qatar’s Abdulaziz Hatem scored a stunning late strike to upset Son Heung-min’s South Korea 1-0.
The defensive midfielder’s left-footed shot came out of the blue in the 78th minute and flew past South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu to decide a largely disappointing contest in front of a crowd of only 13,700 at Zayed Sport City.
Twice former champions South Korea poured forward to try and rescue the match but were unable to produce an equaliser and it will be the Qataris who face holders Australia or hosts the United Arab Emirates for a place in the final next Tuesday.
The political rift between Qatar and the UAE meant the Maroons were supported by only a couple of hundred Omanis but they celebrated wildly in front of them at the final whistle.
Coach Felix Sanchez, whose team enter the semi-final without having conceded a goal, said: “We’ve achieved something special today, this is history for us. We played a great game, the players made a huge effort and we achieved something great for our country.
“I’m the happiest coach in the world.”
Pre-tournament favourites South Korea, who had been looking to reach the last four for a record-extending 11th time, bowed out before the semi-finals for the first time since 2004.
South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento, after his first defeat in 12 matches in charge, said: “We tried to dominate the game as we had in our previous matches but they were very well-organised.
“We were eliminated because we weren’t efficient enough in converting our opportunities into goals.”