Qatar Draw With Luxembourg In European Qualifiers Campaign
On September 7th, the Qatar national football team stepped out on the Stade de Luxembourg pitch in Gasperich, Luxembourg. It was the team's third match of the September window. Having lost their previous two games to Serbia (4-0) and Portugal (3-1), the pressure was on to use the lessons learned from the last two games to pull off a positive outcome against The Red Lions. The Luxembourgian squad had the home advantage, but Qatar made the most of this international experience and left with a respectable 1-1 draw at full time.
The European 2022 World Cup qualifiers comprise fifty-five teams drawn into ten groups (A - J) - five groups comprising five teams each and five groups comprising six. The Qatari squad and reigning Asian Champions, who were invited as UEFA's tournament guests, have been placed in Group A. The Qatari's are competing alongside Portugal, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.
The qualifiers competition is contested in two rounds; Qatar joins the tournament for Round One only. As hosts, the national team automatically qualifies for the World Cup event. However, historically the team's international encounters have been relatively limited. The invitation to join the European qualifiers was arranged to provide the current squad with invaluable international competitive experience ahead of the 2022 tournament. They will be up against a different type of opponent with a distinct style of play, not to mention some of the world's best teams. The opportunity will expand the team's experience and its tactical knowledge of its World Cup rivals.
Since March 2021, the Maroons have beaten Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, drawn with the Republic of Ireland, and lost to Serbia and Portugal. Their losses to top European teams, while bitterly disappointing, could be seen as a blessing in disguise. Before meeting Serbia and Portugal, Qatar had relative success in Europe, and they showed great form throughout 2021 - making the semis of the CONCACAF 2021 Gold Cup semis and topping their AFC 2023 Asian Cup qualifying group. However, the World Cup is a hard-won competition, especially for those with less on-the-road experience. The team's recent losses highlight that fact. But, with over a year until the big event, the team, alongside manager Feliz Sanchez, can begin to address their shortcomings, implement lessons learned and hone their skills and tactics ready for 2022.
Up against Luxembourg only days after the loss to Portugal, Qatar will have been determined to improve their performance. And, after a spirited battle between the two teams, the Al Annabi Boys seemed to do just that…
Both Luxembourg and Qatar entered the field with something to prove. Both needed to pull off a good performance - Luxembourg to get back on track after three losses and only one win at the qualifiers to date, Qatar to make the most of the international opportunity. In their previous friendly match in the March 2021 window, Qatar beat Luxembourg 1-0 at home.
The match was relatively fast-paced, with both sides on the ball in comparative amounts. Each side made numerous shots at goal, though the majority went too high or wide or were blocked by competent goalies. Qatar pulled in four yellow cards compared to one for the Luxembourg team in a match littered with fouls.
The first half of the game set an energetic pace with both teams pushing forward. Luxembourg pressured the Qatari goal repeatedly, including four shots in quick succession in the 22nd minute. The pressure paid off when in the 33rd minute Yvandro Borges Sanches, assisted by Edvin Muratovic, took a right-footed shot from the centre of the box that thumped home at the back of the net.
Qatar came back strong and equalised after several missed shots from Abdulaziz Hatem and Pedro Miguel. The 43rd-minute goal was punted to the goal centre by Homam Ahmed from a difficult angle on the left.
Buoyed by their first-half equaliser, Qatar entered the second half of the game, guns blazing. However, despite repeated attempts, the Maroons couldn't find the back of the net for a second time to win the game.
The September window has closed on a good note for Qatar, but there is still work to be done. The Qatari team have four more away matches with their European counterparts - two in October and two in November:
- Portugal vs Qatar - October 9th
- The Republic of Ireland vs Qatar - October 12th
- Serbia vs Qatar - November 11th
- Azerbaijan vs Qatar - November 14th
PSG F.C. will be in Qatar in January for another winter tour. Last seen in 2019, PSG returns, bringing one of the world’s most famous faces, Lionel Messi.
The final round of Asian 2022 qualifiers has started, the first two matchdays are complete, and the last twelve teams have battled to stake their claims in the standings.
Qatar lost out to the better team in their first head-to-head with football giants Portugal. However, Sanchez and his team will have plenty of takeaways to reflect upon.
Qatar took a heavy defeat against Serbia at the European 2022 qualifiers but will undoubtedly come back fighting in their upcoming head-to-head with Portugal.