Factfile on Qatar, who are in World Cup Group A:
Best World Cup performance: First appearance.
Other honours: Asian Cup winners 2019.
FIFA ranking: 50th.
Main clubs: Al Sadd, Al Duhail, Al Rayyan.
How they qualified: Automatic qualification as hosts
Coach: Felix Sanchez, 46, moved to Qatar in 2006 after 10 years coaching Barcelona youth teams. The Spaniard guided Qatar to the Asian Cup title in 2019 and now has a mission to get the World Cup hosts past the first round. Sanchez started at the Aspire Academy, training the Gulf state’s young athletes, but was under-19 coach and under-23 coach before taking on the national side. Sanchez helped Qatar win the Asian under-19 title in 2014 and has brought many of the players into the national side for the World Cup campaign.
Key player: Qatar are counting on Akram Afif for the goals needed to get the victories required in the group. Afif, who will be 26 two days before the November 20 start of the World Cup, was born in Doha to a Tanzanian footballer father and Yemeni mother. He played for the Qatari-owned Eupen team in Belgium as well as Sporting Gijon in Spain before joining Al-Sadd, who were Qatari champions in 2021 and 2022.
Expectations and key players according to Qatar Football Live:
“We can say with surety that this is not an easy group at all, and it was expected that this would be the case regardless of who the opponents are. As it is their debut World Cup appearance which is happening at home, Qatar’s players may feel the pressure on their shoulders too. However, this should not take away from the fact that Qatar are Asian champions, have some fantastic talents in the squad and the team as a whole has shown its quality over the last few years. Considering everything, if the players can turn the pressure into an incentive to perform well, a Round of 16 spot doesn’t look impossible and it will be an amazing achievement if it happens.”
“Akram Afif is definitely Qatar’s key player ever since he made his senior debut and almost everything creative comes through him. Almoez Ali took the spotlight at Qatar’s triumph at the Asian Cup, winning the MVP and Top Scorer awards, but it could be argued that without Akram, things may not have turned out that way. He is a generational talent that Qatar cannot do without, and Akram being fit and at the top of his game is essential for the team to churn out its best output. In 2016, he became the first Qatari to play in La Liga, with a short stint at Sporting Gijon but it was too little and he had barely anything to show. Around six years later, he has the opportunity to finally make a big impression and earn another crack at Europe.”
November 20: Qatar v Ecuador
November 25: Qatar v Senegal
November 29: Netherlands v Qatar
Goalkeepers: Meshaal Barsham (Al-Sadd), Saad Al-Sheeb (Al-Sadd), Yousef Hassan (Al-Gharafa).
Defenders: Tarek Salman (Al-Sadd), Pedro Miguel Ro-Ro (Al-Sadd), Bassam Al-Rawi (Al-Duhail), Boualem Khoukhi (Al-Sadd), Abdelkarim Hassan (Al-Sadd), Musab Khoder (Al-Sadd), Homam Ahmed (Al-Gharafa).
Midfielders: Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Jassem Gaber (Al-Arabi), Abdulaziz Hatem (Al-Rayyan), Mohammed Waad (Al-Sadd), Ali Asad (Al-Sadd), Assim Madibo (Al-Duhail), Salem Al-Hajri (Al-Sadd), Mostafa Mashaal (Al-Sadd).
Attackers: Akram Afif (Al-Sadd), Abdelrahman Moustafa (Al-Duhail), Khalid Muneer Mazeed (Al-Wakrah), Hassan Al-Haydos (Al-Sadd), Ismaeel Mohammad (Al-Duhail), Naif Al-Hadhrami (Al-Rayyan), Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail), Ahmed Alaaeldin (Al-Gharafa), Mohammed Muntari (Al-Duhail).
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