Team rebuilding an urgent need for World Cup hosts Qatar

Reuters , Tuesday 9 Jun 2015

Qatar players
Qatar players celebrate a goal during the Asian Cup in Australia (Photo: Reuters)

As Qatar continues its vast construction projects to prepare the tiny Gulf nation to host the 2022 World Cup, the slow rebuilding work of the country's soccer team puts them in danger of missing the showpiece deadline.

Despite heavy investment on new coaches and the Aspire Academy to nurture young players, success has been limited and the naturalising of foreign talents has also failed to bridge the gap.

With seven years until the World Cup comes to the Middle East for the first time, last week's draw with Northern Ireland and loss to Scotland show Qatar are a long way short of competing with heavyweights like Argentina and Germany.

Uruguayan Jose Daniel Carreno is the latest coach to be charged with putting together a team able to compete with the world's elite. He is the seventh manager Qatar have employed since hosting and exiting the 2011 Asian Cup at the quarter-finals -- their joint best performance.

On Thursday, Carreno and the 97th ranked side will kick-off their bid to qualify for a first World Cup when they open their Group C campaign in the holiday islands of the Maldives.

The fixture comes against a growing clamour questioning the legitimacy of Qatar's right to stage the 2022 World Cup as U.S. investigators continue with corruption cases at FIFA following a series of arrests of high ranking officials.

Qatar have long denied any wrongdoing in their bid which surprisingly beat South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States in a 2010 vote.

As the FIFA fallout continues, Carreno only has eyes on negotiating through a group also containing Hong Kong, Bhutan and China to move through to the next stage of Asian qualifying.

"Right now we are just worried about Russia," Carreno told Scotland's STV when asked about the 2022 tournament.

"Qatar has no history of playing in World Cups and we're only concerned with trying to qualify the national team to go to Russia.

"It's all about the World Cup qualifier in Maldives and making the tournament after that."

Carreno had been working with local club Al Arabi before stepping up to replace Algerian Djamel Belmadi, who did lift the Gulf Cup of Nations title in November but oversaw a dismal Asian Cup campaign in January and left.

The Maroons limped out of the tournament in Australia at the group stage following defeats by Iran, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

The next generation are faring little better.

Last week, the under-20 team also lost all three games at the World Cup in New Zealand to exit at the group stage.

The Olympic under-23 side were bottom of their group at the Toulon tournament last week following losses to United States, Netherlands and host and eventual winners France.

Felix Sanchez, head coach of Qatar's under-20 side most of whom lifted the under-19 Asian title last year, said he hoped the international experience would benefit the players.

"I think we need to understand that it was a big success for the country and the players to play at the FIFA U-20 World Cup," the Spaniard said.

"Hopefully we will use this experience and move forward." 

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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