Host nation Qatar announced the final 26-man squad list for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Middle Eastern nation is in the showpiece for the first time ever having qualified as hosts earning the rights in 2010. They are also the first Arab country to do so. Qatar are defending Asian champions and are ranked 50th in the FIFA rankings.
Qatar's Football History
Qatar’s football association was created in 1960 and they played their first official match in 1970. In 1975, they entered the qualification stage for the Asian Cup later making it into the competition 10 times. Qatar also won it in the last edition in 2019 defeating Asian powerhouse Japan in the final. Before, the gold in the Asian games in 2006 marked the beginning of their success in the sport this century. The team played its first FIFA World Cup qualifying match in 1977. They came close to featuring in the tournament before in the 1998 edition in France but were defeated by neighbours Saudi Arabia in the Asian's Zone final qualifying round. In 2001 Qatar were again beaten at the same stage by China. They have not managed to match or better these results since.
Asian Cup triumph and preparation
Qatar's historical achievement and significant moment in their short football history came in 2019 lifting the Asian Cup. They defeated the likes of Iraq, South Korea, UAE and eventually favorites Japan 3-1 in the final to clinch the silverware. This was the first ever major title won in their history. Stunningly, the Arabian nation only conceded one goal in the entire tournament. Qatar were also invited to play the Copa America in the same year facing the likes of Colombia, Paraguay and South America giants Argentina. They also played in the 2021 Gold Cup held by CONCACAF. UEFA also invited the nation to play friendlies against teams of the 2022 qualifying group containing Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Ireland, Serbia and Portugal. Before the 2022 World Cup unfolds in their nation, Qatar has created training camps in Spain and Austria. The Maroons played two friendlies in August this year with Canada and Chile. Qatar lost the first game 2-0 to Canada before holding the south American nation to a 2-2 draw in an impressive display.
Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 Squad:
Goalkeepers: Saad Al Sheeb (Al Sadd), Mishaal Barshim (Al Sadd),Youssef Hassan (Al-Gharafa)
Defenders: Pedro Miguel (Al-Sadd), Abdul Karim Hassan (Al-Sadd),Tariq Salman (Al-Sadd),Musab Khader (Al-Sadd), Hammam Al-Amin (Al-Gharafa), Bassam Al-Rawi (Al-Duhail), Boualem Khoukhi (Al-Sadd), Jassem Jaber (Al-Arabi)
Midfielders: Abdulaziz Hatem (Al-Rayyan), Muhammad Waad (Al Sadd), Ali Asad (Al Sadd), Salem Al Hajri (Al Sadd), Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Asim Madbo (Al-Duhail), Mustafa Tariq Mishaal (Al Sadd)
Forwards: Akram Afif (Al Sadd), Ahmed Alaa (Al-Gharafa), Muhammad Muntari (Al-Duhail), Hassan Al Haidos (Al Sadd), Ismail Muhammad (Al-Duhail), Khaled Munir (Al-Wakra), Al-Moez Ali (Al-Duhail), Nayef Al-Hadrami (Al-Rayyan)
Coach: Felix Sanchez
The national team of Qatar has stayed together for a number of years since the 2019 Asian cup and during the peak pandemic days. Even Felix Sanchez stayed back in Doha at the time of the health crisis showing the bond between the coach and manager. This unity could be a pivotal factor for the host nation in the tournament. Sanchez spent 11 years with Barcelona’s youth team and after in Aspire academy. He has managed Qatar’s youth teams too seeing some of the senior members grow up. It is fascinating to have a manager knowing the whereabouts of football in the country. The squad also have characters like Hassan Al Haydos, Almoez Ali and star defender Abdul Karim Hassan all part of the Aspire academy. They can create some memorable moments in the tournament.
The inexperience of playing at the pinnacle of international competition will be too much for the nation. The group they are in consists of European powerhouse Netherlands, Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal and a talented squad of Ecuador. Despite being the Asian champions, Qatar is set to struggle in this group with better-quality players around.
Star Player: Hassan Al Haydos
The 31-year-old captain is the player the Qataris will rely upon to make something happen in the tournament. He is the architect for the side and someone to keep a close eye on. Hassan Al Haydos was one of the most influential players in the 2019 Asian Cup win posing a threat in the opposition box even though he scored only one goal in the entire tournament. He was also on the scoresheet in the draw against Chile in September. Another player who is crucial for the side is the striker Almoez Ali. The 26-year-old returned as the top scorer in the Asian Cup with nine strikes to his name. He also scored in the Gold Cup and the friendlies set by UEFA last year. The pair’s combination will be an interesting watch.
How will Qatar Lineup at the FIFA World Cup 2022?
Felix Sanchez has used a variety of formations and used the versatility of his players to slot them in a number of roles. In a tough group in their first taste of the World Cup, it is possible the coach will go with a five at the back in every match. Still, Sanchez has shown he is not negative in sense of keeping solidity at the back and will use the attack at any given moment. Hence, the 4-4-2 formation is ideal to have a balance in both. This will also give strikers Akram Afif and Al-Moez Ali more liberty in getting at the end of crosses or through balls.
Issues as hosts
Qatar, as a host nation, have come under fierce criticism about the treatment of migrant workers in the country including those involved in the World Cup projects. The poor working conditions and facilities that have led to several deaths, abuses and even non-payment have been flagged by a number of nations competing in the tournament. Those have gone on to create several campaigns and voice their opinions about the human rights abuses in the nation. Other key protests have occurred against the illegality of homosexuality, lack of women’s rights including no activity in women’s football development, climate issues and simply the accommodation problems in this tiny country of the gulf. Along with Qatar, FIFA have also faced the heat of awarding the hosting rights to the Middle-Eastern state in the first place. However, both have often tried to shove away the criticism of trying to prove some facts wrong and telling contestants to keep politics aside among other controversial acts. Doubts remain over the treatment of same-sex people in the country and whether the new labour reforms made will be enforced on the ground level to improve the conditions. The national team has also driven criticism for the way of nationalising players of foreign-born despite strict restrictions from football's governing body.
The Qatar national team has nothing to lose and everything to gain being a host nation at the tournament. They will play without any pressure or expectations while sharing some star names of the football world on the pitch. It is a historical tournament and they want to cherish it to the fullest. Results matter little but the Maroons will try not to finish dead last in their group which presumably can be the faith.