Moment for Qatar | Monitor


Sunday is a red-letter day for Qatari football.

Its men’s football team will make its World Cup debut as hosts of the tournament, taking on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium to mark the opening of the 2022 World Cup.

The Middle Eastern country of 2.8m people, mostly expatriates, qualified automatically as the host nation.

The reigning Asian champions are ranked 50 in the world and are the first Arab nation to host the competition.

In their run to lifting the Asian trophy, the country’s first big football title, the Maroons conceded just one goal and beat favourites and four-time champions Japan 3-1 in the final.

Leading the team from the dugout on home soil is Spaniard Felix Sanchez – a former Barcelona youth coach.

The Maroons have been busy preparing for the tournament taking part in several competitions as they hope to make it past the group stage.

Last year, Qatar beat Egypt on penalties to finish third in the Fifa Arab cup hosted in the Qatari capital, Doha.

In the semi-final, the Maroons lost 2-1 to eventual winners – Algeria’s Desert Warriors – in a pulsating match at Thumama stadium, conceding a goal in the 17th minute of stoppage time.

In 2019, Qatar was invited to take part in the Copa America where they were placed in Group B with Argentina – who finished third – Colombia and Paraguay.

The Maroons were eliminated in the first round after finishing bottom of their group with a single point after drawing 2-2 with Paraguay in their opening match.

The squad is composed of players picked from the local league – Qatar Stars League. The Maroons are in Group A with Ecuador (ranked 44), Senegal (ranked 18th) and the Netherlands (ranked eighth).

As the host nation, the Maroons will kick off the show with their match against the South Americans at the 60,000-seater Al Bayt stadium.

The star of the team is the tricky left-winger Akram Afif. The 25-year-old is the 2019 Asian footballer of the year after his one goal and 10 assists led Qatar to the continental trophy.

Afif was previously on the books of La Liga side Villarreal and has also played KAS Eupen in the Belgian league. Afif’s older brother, Ali, is also part of the squad.

The tournament could be the last World Cup for Qatar’s most capped player and the current team captain Hassan al-Haydos who will turn 32 before the final on December 18.

Al-Haydos, who plays for Al-Sadd, is also fourth on the country’s goal-scorer’s list.

Here is a timeline tracking the team’s, and the sport’s, journey and how it has established itself in the Asian football pyramid:

1960: The Qatar Football Association (QFA) is formed. Three years later, it became an official Fifa member.

1970: The national team plays its first official match against Bahrain in the biennial Gulf Cup, losing 2-1.

1972: The QFA launches the Qatar football league.

1974: Qatar win their first international match, beating Oman 4-0 in the second group game of the Gulf Cup. Qatar finishes third in the six-team tournament.

1975: The Maroon take part in the Asian Cup qualifiers but fail to qualify for the tournament.

1977: Qatar beat Bahrain on its World Cup qualifiers debut but finish third and fail to make it out of the group.

1980: Managed by former Barcelona and Brazil winger Evaristo, Qatar makes its first appearance at the Asia Cup.

1984: The team reaches the Gulf Cup final for the first time but loses 4-3 to Iraq on penalties.

1992: Qatar qualify for the Summer Olympics, where they beat Egypt and hold Colombia to a draw. The same year, the team wins its first-ever Gulf Cup, winning four out of its five games in the tournament.

1997: Qatar make it to the final round of qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup but miss out on qualification after losing to Saudi Arabia in the last game. A win would have secured a spot in France 1998.

2004: Win a second Gulf Cup, this time as hosts.

2006: The Maroon win their first Asian Games gold, defeating Iraq in the final.

2014: A seminal year in Qatar football as the team loses just one match the entire year and wins the West Asia Football Federation and the Gulf Cup championships.

2019: Against all odds, Qatar wins the Asian Cup for the first time. En route to the title, Qatar defeat South Korea in the quarter-finals and four-time champions Japan in the final. They concede just one goal in the entire tournament. The same year, Qatar was invited to play in the Copa America where, after an impressive 2-2 draw against Paraguay, it loses the next two games and finishes bottom of the group.

2021: The team is invited to play the Concacaf Gold Cup, where it makes it to the semi-finals before losing 1-0 to hosts USA.


Group A fixture

Qatar vs. Ecuador, 7pm


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