MUMBAI, Dec 29, (RTRS): An in-form Qatar will be hoping to use the 10th Asian Cup in nearby United Arab Emirates as a platform for a successful maiden World Cup campaign as the hosts of soccer’s biggest event in 2022.
The Jan 5-Feb 1 tournament will be Qatar’s last major competition ahead of the next World Cup and the tiny, wealthy Arab state will look to improve on their Asian Cup quarter-final appearances of 2000 and 2011.
Comprised largely of players from 2018 AFC Champions League semifinalists – Al Sadd and Al Duhail – the Maroons have been pooled alongside Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in Group E, with only North Korea below them in the FIFA rankings.
However, Felix Sanchez’s men will be confident of advancing deep into the tournament, having been boosted by two impressive displays in international friendlies last month.
Qatar pulled off one of the most impressive results in their history when they won 1-0 in Switzerland and five days later, they fought back to earn a 2-2 draw against 2016 UEFA Euro quarter-finalists Iceland.
“The Asian Cup is a very important tournament, and we want to give it our best,” Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb told sports weekly Doha Stadium Plus. “Our preparations have been very good. We played two high-intensity matches in Europe and did well and hopefully, we can continue in the same way at the Asian Cup.”