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Opinion

Just how good are Qatar at football?

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Roar Rookie
30th March, 2022
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As has been the case since the first World Cup in 1930 – with the only exception being Italy in 1934 – Qatar have received automatic qualification to the group stages of the 2022 tournament as hosts.

Many pundits and fans alike have described Qatar as the worst team to play in a World Cup, and they are almost certainly the worst to host one.

But has Qatar really earnt those labels, or might they have a chance of delighting the home crowd and doing well come November?

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Let’s start off with the obvious facts. Qatar are 52nd in the FIFA men’s world rankings, and there are 32 teams at the World Cup finals. They have never qualified for the World Cup, but have they come close?

In 1974, in what was meant to be their first World Cup qualifying campaign, Qatar withdrew from the tournament. They failed to reach the third round of qualifying for Russia 2018, but they did for South Africa in 2010 and also in 2002.

The country won the Asia Cup in 2019, beating Japan in the final to win their first major tournament. Despite being in Asia, Qatar took part in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2021. They reached the semi-finals before losing to hosts and eventual champions USA 1-0. They don’t always do well in continental tournaments, finishing last in their 2019 Copa America group.

So they have some tournament pedigree, but who are their players and what teams do they play for? For the 2021 Arab Cup, Qatar named a squad comprising only players from the Qatar Stars League, the top-flight competition in the country. Eleven of the 23 play for Al-Sadd, who are reigning champions and the most successful Qatari football club by far.

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Overall, I think many people will underestimate Qatar as the World Cup nears. Due to their lack of fixtures, given they have already qualified, FIFA have been organising several friendlies for Qatar to play. FIFA seem determined to not suffer a lot of embarrassment with this host nation.

What can we expect from Qatar? There will be two factors that will impact how well they do in the finals. The first is the group stage draw. If they are dealt a relatively kind draw, there’s certainly a chance they progress to the last 16. The draw takes place on Saturday at 3am AEDT.

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The second factor will be their home support and how much of it they will receive. It is safe to say Qatar is not known to have a football-loving population, but will fans come out in large numbers to help the national team? High attendances have to be expected.

These two reasons will influence whether the first Arab World Cup hosts flop out early or if they progress to wow the world.

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