LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive.
A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages.
A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group.
From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough — Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.
Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.
But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.
He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.
Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.
While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament.
"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.
"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.
"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."
Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.