This text is a part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Consultants’ Community, a cooperation between a number of the greatest media organisations from the 32 nations who certified. theguardian.com is operating previews from two nations every day within the run-up to the match kicking off on 20 November.
The Qatar Stars League has been on pause because the center of September because the nationwide group entered an early and intensive pre-tournament coaching camp. The coach, Félix Sánchez, has loved the posh of working together with his facet in Vienna and Marbella, taking in friendlies in opposition to Canada, Chile, Nicaragua and Guatemala. A scarcity of preparation might be no excuse for the hosts.
They kick off the World Cup having performed 10 European friendlies, gained the 2019 Asian Cup, carried out nicely on the 2019 Copa América and reached the semi-finals of the 2021 Gold Cup. There have been options Sánchez’s facet had peaked too quickly, notably after being overwhelmed by Serbia and Portugal final yr after which shedding 2-0 to Canada final month. However a 2-2 draw with Chile has renewed optimism.
Familiarity is their power and Sánchez has lengthy employed both a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 system, the previous designed to retain the ball, the latter to counter in opposition to it. It is a facet brimming with technically proficient gamers: Akram Afif buzzes in behind the predatory Almoez Ali whereas the ball is funnelled down the left channel for the galavanting Homam al-Amin.
It is a light-weight facet, nevertheless, and the way they fare with out the ball is an enormous concern. “Powerful matches await us within the match,” Sánchez mentioned just lately. “We are going to face very sturdy groups – groups which can be used to being within the World Cup. If we show our greatest, we will compete.” You gained’t hear far more than that from the group proper now. Sánchez has his squad in full isolation in Marbella, with the Spanish newspaper Diario AS commenting that when Liverpool had been based mostly there earlier than the 2019 Champions League last you at the least noticed them go for a motorbike experience.
Félix Sánchez has been in Qatar since 2006 and has labored his manner up from the Aspire Academy, by the Qatar youth groups earlier than touchdown the senior job in 2017. He didn’t information them to the 2018 World Cup however the 2019 Asian Cup triumph greater than made up for that disappointment. The Catalan has no membership expertise however few boast his information of Qatari soccer. It needs to be mentioned, nevertheless, that the hosts at all times hoped one other Catalan of exalted standing could be within the dugout in Qatar, a sure Xavi Hernández …
Akram Afif is coming again into type at simply the suitable time. Accidents and a rumoured falling-out with Xavi in direction of the top of the coach’s Al Sadd spell had led to a lack of consistency for Al Annabi (the Qatar nationwide group) however the current friendlies have indicated he’s primed for the World Cup. An electrical ahead, on his day Afif can beat any defender and justify his standing as probably the greatest gamers in Asia. “He’s an unbelievable expertise, an enormous participant. I’ve instructed him many occasions that he’s a tremendous participant,” Xavi mentioned of Afif after successful the league title in 2020.
A lot rests on the shoulders of Al Duhail’s Bassam al-Rawi because the central pillar of the defence however his head might additionally turn into essential. The centre-back is an enormous set-piece risk and that can be a path to objective for the hosts. He’s diminutive however very combative and he’ll set the tone after they’re underneath strain so if he stands agency, so will Qatar.
The match organisers have been steadfast of their method to criticism, just about from the day their successful bid was introduced. Hassan al-Thawadi is the general public face of the match and each time questioned on subjects similar to LGBTQ+ and migrant employee rights he has repeatedly expressed that every one are welcome, and that this occasion has accelerated main social and labour reforms. “The aim of the match is to carry individuals of various values and beliefs and cultures collectively,” is Thawadi’s inventory response.
As-Salam al-Amiri interprets as Peace to the Emir and was adopted in 1996 after the accession to the throne of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The lyrics communicate of nationwide satisfaction, Qatar’s power when it wants to indicate power and peace when it needs to be peaceable. It was written by Skeikh Mubarak bin Sayf al-Thani and composed by Abdulaziz Nassir al-Ubaydan al-Fakru.
All-time cult hero
Sebastián Soria is the Qatari Edinson Cavani. The Uruguay-born ahead was one of many first gamers to be naturalised again in 2006, lengthy earlier than the cash arrived, and went on to make 123 appearances, changing into Qatar’s all-time high scorer with 39 objectives. Throughout an 18-year profession in Qatari soccer he has performed for 5 membership sides and earlier this yr hit 200 league objectives in his last swansong at Qatar Sports activities Membership. He lengthy led the road of an unremarkable nationwide facet, scoring their solely objectives on the 2007 Asian Cup, an indication of how far Al Annabi have come. Regardless of being 38, there is no such thing as a doubt many followers are unhappy he gained’t seem at this World Cup.
Ali Rea writes for sport360.com. Observe him on Twitter right here.