Two months from World Cup, Qatar emerge from training lockdown

A general view shows the dome covering the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup countdown clock in Doha on August 10, 2022. — AFP/File

Doha: Qatar’s World Cup team will emerge from four months in near-lockdown on Friday to take on Canada, with most fans nervously watching from afar.

All their games have been behind closed doors since June 2 and the Qatar Football Association has also kept sponsors away from training camps in Spain and Austria as they prepare the players for their baptism of fire – which is home. The World Cup kicks off on the mainland – in 60 days.

After spending tens of billions of dollars preparing for the first World Cup in an Arab country, Qatar is desperate to see the national team through the first round where they are in a group with the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.

But they lost 3-0 to Croatia’s under-23 side behind closed doors on Tuesday. And while Friday’s public games against Canada and Chile in Vienna are only friendlies, they will be seen as a key test of how much steel Spain coach Felix Sanchez has put in.

Team spokesperson Ali Salah said AFP That Sanchez and the QFA had agreed to keep 30 players away from Qatar and away from interesting rivals.

“There was a discussion between the coach and the federation last season. It was agreed.”

Salat said Sanchez and the players will return to Qatar briefly in early October for an open training session before returning to Spain for more isolation before the World Cup begins.

Qatar are the bottom team in Group A – ranked 48th on FIFA’s list. Sanchez was named coach in 2017 on a mission to make an impact this year.

‘They need to sacrifice’

Qatar failed to reach the 2018 World Cup but won the Asian Cup in 2019 and reached the semifinals of the CONCAC Gold Cup last year.

With many eyes on 2019 Asian Player of the Year Akram Afif, Qatari fans are praying for a repeat of South Korea’s dream of reaching the World Cup semi-finals when they co-hosted the event in 2002.

Former national player Mohammad Mubarak Al Muhannadi said that Qatar must beat Ecuador in the opening match on November 20 to reach the last 16.

“They are preparing for the World Cup for the first time in their lives. These players are sacrificing their time, they are away from home, away from their families,” Mohnadi told AFP.

It is difficult to go abroad at this time but the players know their mission, the federation and the coaches explained it and they are ready, they need to make sacrifices.

“The people of Qatar will come out to support but they want to see quality football that they can be happy and proud of.”

Mohnadi believes the World Cup will give a significant boost to the Qatari league, which has been dominated by Al-Saad and Al-Douhail for the past five years.

Both have fallen this season, however, with key players remaining with the national squad. The stadium crowd has grown and Mohnadi said this is because other teams are getting a chance to win.

“If my team can come close to a top spot, I’ll be happy and I’ll take my family to support them. If they’re losing, nobody wants to go to the stadium. More people enjoy the stadium now. happening.”

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