Today we continue profiling, in reverse alphabetical order, the 32 teams which will participate in the 2022 World Cup—team eleven is host Qatar.
The Maroon are participating in their first World Cup ever and did not qualify for the tournament. The awarding of the host role to the tiny nation has long been controversial and yet here we are. Almost as if to atone, Qatar, who had participated in ten Asian Cup tournaments, won the 2019 edition to provide some bona fides and then had a good run in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing 0-1 controversially to the USA in the semifinals.
Placed in World Cup 2022 Group A with Ecuador, the Netherlands, and Senegal, the Qataris hope home turf will matter beyond their capabilities and provide them with the springboard necessary to advance from a group where every team is leagues ahead of them in soccer experience and technical skills.
Qatar was first inhabited 50,000 years ago and artifacts from the Ubaid period have been found in the country’s coastal regions. The country is located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, has 4,417 square miles in area, and is composed mostly of flat sand lands with a desert climate whose temperatures range from a low of 57F in January to a high of 108F in July and August. This harsh summer climate is the reason why the World Cup is going to be played in November-December when the average temperature range is between 61F—86F.
Qatar is a unitary Islamic parliamentary semi-constitutional hereditary monarchy effectively ruled by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani whose family has ruled the state since the 1800s. The Qatari constitution enshrines all executive, legislative, and judicial powers in the Emir. The country became independent from the UK in 1971 and has a population of 2.8M, 80% of which live in the capital and largest city Doha. The Qataris ethnically are 40% Arab, 36% South Asian (Pakistani and Indian), and 10% Iranian. They are 66% Muslim, with Arabic their official language and English a common language. Their GDP is $315B, HDI is 0.855 (very high), and they are one of the globe’s largest oil-producing countries. Some estimates proclaim that over 90% of the country’s workforce is composed of migrant workers.
Squad (which will expand to 26 yet may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices): Goalkeepers—Saad Al Sheeb and Meshaal Barsham (Al Sadd), and Yousef Hassan (Al Gharafa); Defenders—Ro-Ro, Abdelkarim Hassan, Tarke Salman, Ahmed Suhail, Musab Keder, and Boulamen Khoukhi (all from Al-Sadd), Homam Ahmed (Al-Gharafa) and Bassam Al-Rawi (Al-Duhail); Midfielders—Karim Boudiaf, Ismaeel Mohammad, Abdullah Al-Ahrak, and Assim Madibo (all from Al-Duhail), Mohammed Waad (Al-Sadd), and Abdulaziz Hatem (Al-Rayyan); Strikers—Ahmed Alaaeldin (Al-Gharafa), Almoez Ali and Mohammed Muntari (Al-Duhail), Hassan Al-Haydos, Akram Afif, and Yusuf Abdurisag (all from Al-Sadd).
Path to Qatar
Qatar was gifted its place in the “finals” by virtue of being given the hosting role.
Qatar is coached by Spaniard Felix Sanchez who has been involved in coaching in Qatar since 2006 and at the helm of the national team since 2017. He has molded this team to his attacking tastes but also coached them into a very cohesive unit capable of playing different styles in a single game. Their players also score goals as evidenced by producing the top goal scorers in both of their recent tourneys the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Asian Cup. They play a 5-3-2 on defense and a 3-5-2 on offense and seem able to effortlessly transition from one to the other while in the run of play.
Qatar’s two top stars are their two-man offense Almoez Ali and Akram Afif who showcased their talent in the Gold Cup. The team is drawn 100% from Qatar Football Association clubs but this has turned out to be an advantage when preparing for the cup as all the players are locally available. The team’s focus on offense can be seen on their squad choices which count six strikers.
Group and Tourney Prospects
Qatar has high hopes of progressing from their group and have a very talented group to do so with in 2022. The problem is that they have starred against Asian, African, and CONCACAF opposition and rarely play South American or European teams. In their group, they will face one team from each of the traditional soccer meccas plus the best team in Africa. The prospects for Qatari advancement would seem to be nil save a miracle of sorts.
Photo: Akram Afif – Shutterstock ID: 1430436035, by Celso Pupo