July 14, 2021

Qatar Draw Against Panama In Gold Cup Debut Match

Qatar played a confident first game against Panama on matchday two of the 2021 Gold Cup. The Qatari squad took the lead in the second half with the match's first goal, sending home an additional two goals within the next fifteen minutes. However, the Panamanians managed to equalise after each goal scored. The match ended, after a thrilling second half, on a healthy 3-3 draw.

The Match

Tuesday's Qatar vs Panama match at the BBVA Stadium in Huston was a reasonably energetic game despite the almost two-hour delay to the starting whistle.

While the first half of the match ended goalless, both teams aimed at the posts on multiple occasions. Panama's closest shot came in the 24th minute, but the ball clipped the cross-bar. Qatar's Abdulaziz Hatem tried to create a goal opportunity for Almoez Ali in the 30th minute, but hopes were dashed as Panama's defenders closed in. In the 34th minute, Ali took a direct shot at the sticks from within the box. However, a decent save by Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia ensured a scoreless first 45 minutes.

After halftime, both teams were back on the pitch with their sights on their goal. But, it was Qatar who opened the scoring in the 47th minute. Homam Ahmed took a punt at goal, but his efforts were punched away by Mejia. Qatar's Ro-Ro met the rebounding ball and gave it a lovely little header straight to Ali Afif, who booted it home. Panama returned on the offensive and took a shot less than two minutes later, saved by Qatar's goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham. However, the Panamanians were not to be stopped, and Ronaldo Blackburn equalised with a header in the 50th minute.

Qatar took the lead once more with a shot off Almoez Ali's boot, but once again, Panama's Blackburn equalised the score in the 57th minute. In the 67th minute, a penalty by Qatari captain Hassan Al Haydos looked likely to win the day for the Al Annabi Boys. But, Panama's Eric Davis evened the score for the third time also with a penalty shot.

Overall, the teams were evenly matched on the day. Qatar held possession for 45% of the game to Panama's 55%. Though, Qatar did lead the board when it came to taking a shot at goal with 15 attempts across the match compared to Panama's 11 shots.

What is the Gold Cup?

The Gold Cup is a biannual men's football competition held to determine the continental champions of North and Central America and the Caribbean. The flagship competition is organised and governed by the continents football confederation CONCACAF and has been running in its current format since 1991 and currently involves sixteen participating teams (as of 2019). 

Why is Qatar involved?

Since 1996, a guest team has been invited on a relatively regular basis to join the tournament. Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, South Korea and South Africa all took part in the games from 1996 to 2005. The 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar will participate as guests in the 2021 and 2023 tournaments - making the tiny Arab nation the first guest country to join the tournament since 2005 and the first Gulf country ever to do so. The only other Asian nation (Qatar Plays in the Asian region under the Asian Football Confederation - AFC) to join the tournament was South Korea.

In the run-up to the World Cup Qatar in 2022, the Qatari squad have, and are, playing a host of international games. The motivation behind their world tour is to practice and hone their skills in preparation for their debut World Cup appearance. However, Qatar's involvement in the tournament has benefits for CONCACAF teams and the Qatari national squad. Teams involved will gain valuable experience in terms of improving performances and understanding their counterparts style of play, especially in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. Also, since 2018, the AFC and CONCACAF have been working together to support the growth of football in both parts of the world. The partnership includes sharing best practices around hosting the World Cup - the USA, Canada, and Mexico will host the 2026 tournament, sponsorship of each other's events, referee exchanges, etc. Qatar attending the Gold Cup as a guest team was part of the natural progression of the two bodies agreement.

Tournament Nitty-Gritty

The 2021 Gold Cup is taking place in nine different locations across the United States of America. 

The tournament runs from July 10th to August 1st.

Sixteen teams are fighting for their chance to be continental champions. Fifteen of those teams qualified either directly or indirectly via the 2019/2020 CONCACAF Nations League. Qatar fills the final sixteenth slot. 

The following teams will contest the tournament:

  • Canada (Nations League)
  • Costa Rica (Nations League)
  • Curacao (Nations League)
  • El Salvador (Nations League)
  • Grenada (Nations League)
  • Guadeloupe (Gold Cup qualifiers)
  • Haiti (Gold Cup qualifiers)
  • Honduras (Nations League)
  • Jamaica (Nations League)
  • Martinique (Nations League)
  • Mexico (Nations League)
  • Panama (Nations League)
  • Qatar (Guest)
  • Suriname (Nations League)
  • Trinidad and Tobago (Gold Cup qualifiers)
  • United States (Nations League)

The sixteen squads were drawn into four groups of four. Qatar is in Group D with Grenada, Honduras and Panama. 

The Qatari team is based in Huston, Texas. Their initial three games are at the BBVA Stadium in the same city. 

Following their match against Panama on July 13th, they will meet Grenada on July 17th and Honduras on July 20th. 

The Group Stage of the Gold Cup tournament is formatted as a single round-robin. The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals knockout stage. The four victors from the quarter-finals will contest the semis, and the top two teams will take on the final. 

If Qatar makes either of the top two slots in their group, they will head to the quarter-finals, held over July 24th and 25th in Arlington, Virginia and Glendale, Los Angeles County. Should the team progress, the semis will be held on July 29th in Austin, Texas and Huston. And, the final will take place in Paradise, Nevada August 1st.

Main image: the-afc.com

Published: July 14, 2021
Last updated: July 14, 2021
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