Qatar Lose Out To Ireland In European Qualifiers Battle
As part of the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers campaign, Qatar's run of international friendly games in Europe hit another bump in the road on Tuesday evening, October 12th. Against the Republic of Ireland, the Maroons suffered a 4-0 defeat as the Irish took the game at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin by storm. Backed by a jubilant home crowd, the Boys in Green punted home the opening goal in the first four minutes of the game. The Irish squad, buoyed by their start, grew in confidence from that point on, dominating the match with an energetic and assertive display. Despite their dogged efforts, Qatar's boys, low in confidence after a recent spate of losses, were no match for the Ireland team.
When the starting whistle blew, Ireland hit the ground running. At home and boosted by their recent 3-0 win against Azerbaijan, the team started brightly and began to apply pressure on the Qatari team immediately. The opening goal came from a throw-in, worked down the left-hand side, to Ireland's Callum Robinson. Robinson exchanged passes with teammates Jamie McGrath and Conor Hourihane before smashing the ball to the back of the net four minutes into play. Lamentably for Qatar, the ball clipped defender Bassam Al-Rawi before it crossed the line, changing its trajectory enough to leave Qatari goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham with no chance of saving it.
Nine minutes later, Robinson took a penalty shot from a foul on Jamie McGrath by Karim Boudiaf. The ball hit home and gave the Irish their second goal of the evening. The Qataris gave themselves a shake at this point and began to pick up the pace. Having been held in their own half for the first fifteen minutes, they began to push play up the field. Akram Afif tried his luck, bursting forward but was quickly shut down by the Irish defenders, and both Qatar's captain Hassan Al-Haydos and forward Abdulaziz Hatem both lined up to the goal but had their efforts blocked.
In the second half, Robinson was at it again. Taking a pass from Jeff Henrick, he slotted it to the back of the net to bag himself a hat-trick in the 53rd minute. Six minutes later, teammate Shane Duffy headed a corner home to make the score 4-0. Qatar rallied in the second half with Akram Afif causing the Irish defence some problems, but the team couldn't break through to claw any goals back.
Qatar in Europe
As hosts of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, Qatar joined the European qualifiers tournament as a guest. The reigning Asian champions, who have become a credible team on the international circuit in recent years, were invited to Europe to test their mettle and gain valuable experience against some of the best teams and players in the world. The young squad has had relatively limited international competitive exposure. Therefore, time in Europe improving their experience and tactical knowledge before the 2022 tournament kicks off is invaluable, especially since the Qataris will be hoping for a good result at the World Cup.
The Maroons joined the tournament in Group A alongside Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland, Serbia and Portugal. Before the match against the Irish, the team played each opponent in their group once at home (neutral ground in Hungary) and Portugal and Luxembourg away. At home, the Qataris won 1-0 against Luxembourg, 2-1 over Azerbaijan and drew 1-1 opposite Ireland. However, they suffered back to back losses against Serbia (4-0) and Portugal (3-1). Away, the team drew 1-1 against Luxembourg and lost again 3-0 to Portugal (one goal coming off of Christiano Ronaldo's boot).
Throughout the tournament, the Qatari squad has proved its attacking calibre and good defensive and organisational qualities. Though under pressure, the team needs to learn composure, defensive discipline and the danger of conceding goals through error.
Before their face-off against Ireland, the Irish team's manager Stephen Kenny praised the Maroons, calling them a good attacking side capable of controlling games and who had earned good results over the last year. Coming into their match with Ireland off of back to back losses, the Qatar team suffered from a crisis of confidence. Had they come to the game on a high after some of those good results (they reached the semi-finals of the 2021 Gold Cup in America before the start of their European campaign), who knows; the results could have been very different.
Qatar is up next against Serbia during the November international window. The Serbs took the Qatari squad down 4-0 in their previous meeting. Having had several back-to-back losses, the team will be keen to capitalise on lessons learned and finish the competition with a couple of wins. The squad will need to muster their confidence and composure against the Serbs to fight a convincing battle.
The match will be held at the Red Star Stadium in Belgrade. The game will be the team's penultimate match before heading home to process their European experience and move forwards towards 2022.
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