By Omna Taddele – BBC Sport, Addis Ababa
Ethiopian coach Abraham Mebratu has created history by leading war-torn Yemen to the Asian Cup finals for the first time.
Yemen clinched qualification for next year’s finals in UAE thanks to a 2-1 win over Nepal coupled with a victory for Philippines over visiting Tajikistan by the same score.
Mebratu’s side finished the final group stage of the qualifiers unbeaten with four wins and two draws.
“It’s surreal that we achieved this feat despite the campaign being full of difficulties and challenges,” Mebratu told BBC Sport.
“Due to the fact that there is a war in Yemen, there hasn’t been a league competition since 2014.
“This dire situation has been very challenging and daunting when it comes to assembling a national team for the qualifier.
“Nonetheless, we finally managed to get a good squad to go all the way to the finals.”
The ongoing unrest in Yemen also means they are unable play their games at home, with their final three qualifiers played in Qatar.
“We played all of our home games far from home but still we notched a tremendous results that have made all Yemenis rejoice as one in these trying times,” Mebratu added.
“As an Ethiopian I am proud that my charges made it this far.”
The hero for Mebratu’s side on Tuesday in Doha was Abdulwasea Al Matari as he scored both goals in the win over Nepal.
Mebratu, who has been in charge of the senior national team since March 2016, previously led the Yemen to the finals of the Asian Under-23 Cup in 2013.
It is also the first time that an Ethiopian coach has led a foreign country to a major tournament.