Almoez Ali scores 4 as Qatar advances at Asian Cup

<p>
              Japan's midfielder Ritsu Doan, right, goes for a header with Oman's midfielder Ahmed Al Mahaijri during the AFC Asian Cup group F soccer match between Japan and Oman at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
            </p>

AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar thrashed North Korea 6-0 on Sunday and advanced to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup after the biggest win in this tournament so far.

Saudi Arabia, which beat Lebanon 2-0 on Saturday for its second straight victory, will join Qatar in the round of 16 from Group E. Amid diplomatic tensions between the two countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia meet Thursday in a game which will decide the group winner.

Four-time champion Japan and Uzbekistan also made the next round with a game to spare in Group F. Japan beat Oman 1-0 on Sunday and Uzbekistan routed Turkmenistan 4-0.

The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the round of 16.

Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, has been subject to a diplomatic and logistical boycott by regional rivals, including Saudi Arabia, for more than 18 months.

After a goal in the opening 2-0 victory over Lebanon, Qatar star striker Almoez Ali added four more to become the tournament’s leading scorer. He struck twice within two minutes early in the first half to give Qatar a comfortable lead with two more goals in the second half.

Ali has scored nine goals in his last eight games for his country.

Boualem Khoukhi and Abdelkarim Hassan also had a goal apiece for Qatar, which won two opening Asian Cup games for the first time.

In Abu Dhabi, Genki Haraguchi earned the penalty and then converted from the spot in the 28th minute for Japan.

In Dubai, Eldor Shomurodov led Uzbekistan with two goals and Javokhir Sidikov and Jaloliddin Masharipov also scored — all in the first half.

Japan and Uzbekistan meet on Thursday to decide the group’s top spot.