Paris Saint-Germain became the first three-time winners of the Al Kass International Cup, beating Kashiwa Reysol, 2-1. The French club also won in 2012 and 2015. Benfica took third place by beating Espérance de Tunis, 3-0.
Kashiwa wasted no time in the title match, opening up an early lead. In the fourth minute, Hayato Fujimoto launched a remarkable shot from the right side over the head of PSG keeper Trey Vimalin, a remarkable goal that set the tone for the rest of the game.
With the lead, Kashiwa settled into its usual defensive posture, and PSG went on the attack. The French side equalized on 33 minutes, when Tanguy Coulibaly got on the end of a low cross and gave keeper Leo Kokubo no chance.
The second half saw more retrenchment from Kashiwa and more siege from PSG. The pressure came to fruition in the 54th minute, when a Kashiwa defender was whistled for a handball in the area. Coulibaly snuck his penalty underneath Kokubo, and PSG had its lead.
Kashiwa was forced to bring its attack forward and nearly equalised with 15 minutes remaining, but Vimalin was just able to tip Hosoya’s shot wide. It was the last, best chance for Kashiwa, who could only watch as PSG raised the cup for the third time.
PSG coach Laurent Huard said, “It was an extremely difficult match. Kashiwa had a strong defence, so we didn’t have an opportunity to score more goals, but thankfully we managed to score the second goal and win the Al Kass International Tournament. I’m so proud of my team, the performed phenomenally.”
Mansoor Al-Ansari, General Secretary of Qatar Football Association, said, “To see the youth come up and always play against great teams from all over the world is an amazing experience for them, and for us, across the board. And also on an organisational basis, to give all of the participating teams the opportunity to experience what Qatar has to offer, from the facilities to the nice weather, as well as the level of football, I think it will be a great memory for all of the players.”
The winners medals were presented by football legend Raúl Gonzalez, Real Madrid’s second all-time leading scorer who also played for Al Sadd in the QNB Stars League. “I’m happy to be back at Aspire Academy to see old colleagues and friends. It is great to see the constant progress in football and how enthusiastic people are about the game,” he said. “The Al Kass tournament is one of the best examples of this. Al Kass provides one of the most valuable opportunities to see the best talents in football, and maybe we will see some of these young players come back to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.”
The third-place match was a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Portuguese side Benfica took the field as the highest-scoring team in the tournament, with 20 goals in their first four matches. Espérance, on the other hand, leaned heavily on its back line, not conceding a goal until the semi-finals.
The first half was scoreless, but on 56 minutes, a series of short passes in the area set up Ronaldo Camara for the game’s first goal. Benfica maintained that momentum, and in the 76th minute, substitute Javier Tavares found the net with a hard, low shot. Fittingly, Benfica’s third and final goal of the tournament came courtesy of Gonçalo Ramos, who tapped home a cross from Tavares with two minutes left. The goal was Ramos’s sixth of the tournament, the most of any player.
Ahmed Al Abbassi, Executive Director of Qatar National Teams, said, “It’s extremely important to participate in such a great event. We participate in several big tournaments, but the Al Kass International Cup is by far the strongest in terms of technical quality of the different teams that we play against. It’s a catalyst for the players to gain experience against the best players in the world of their age.”
Moving down the table, in fifth place were Aspire Football Dreams, Real Madrid (Spain) were sixth, AC Milan (Italy) were seventh, and Aspire Academy (Qatar) took eighth.
Finishing ninth through 12th, respectively, were Tottenham Hotspur (England), Guangzhou Evergrande (China), Wydad AC (Morocco) and Fenerbahçe (Turkey).
|Loic Mbe Soh|
|Kays Ruiz Atil (min.64 Anfane Ahmada)|
|Tanguy Coulibaly (min.88 Herve Malebe)|
|Alexandre Fressange (min.64 Ruben Providence)|
|Arnaud Kalimuendo (min.90+3 Kenny Nagera)|
|Fumito Okihara (min.64 Daichi Maeda)|
|Yuusuke Shimizu (min.80 Koki Takeda)|
|Naito Saito (min.58 Fumiya Unoki)|