Two months before the World Cup, Qatar comes out of confinement to train

Two months before the World Cup, Qatar comes out of confinement to train

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

All of their games since June 2 have been behind closed doors and the Qatar Football Association has even kept sponsors away from training camps in Spain and Austria as they prepare players for a baptism of fire, a debut in the World Cup in local territory, in 60 days.

Having spent tens of billions of dollars preparing for the first World Cup in an Arab nation, Qatar is desperate to see the national team get through the first round where it is grouped with the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.

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

Team spokesman Ali Salat told AFP Sanchez and the QFA had agreed to keep the 30 players away from Qatar and the prying eyes of intrigued rivals.

“The coach and the federation were discussing last season. This was agreed.”

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

Qatar is the last ranked team in Group A: 48th on the FIFA list. Sánchez was appointed coach in 2017 with a mission to make an impact this year.

– ‘They need to sacrifice themselves’ –

Qatar failed to reach the 2018 World Cup but won the Asian Cup in 2019 and reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF 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 Mohamed Mubarak al-Mohannadi said Qatar must beat Ecuador in the opening match on November 20 to have a chance of reaching the round of 16.

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

“Going abroad for so long is difficult, but the players know their mission. The federation and the coaches have explained it and they are ready. They need to sacrifice.”

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

Mohannadi believes the World Cup will provide a crucial boost to the Qatari league, which has been dominated by Al-Sadd and Al-Duhail for the past five years.

However, both have slumped this season, as the key players are with the national team. The crowds in the stadiums have increased and Mohannadi said this is because other teams have a chance to win.

“If my team can get closer to a prominent place, I would be happy and I will take my family to support them. If they are losing, nobody wants to go to the stadium. Now more people enjoy the stadiums.”

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