October 10, 2021

Qatar Bested by Christiano Ronaldo and Team

The Qatar national football team are back in Europe as guests at the UEFA 2022 World Cup qualification tournament. The rising stars of Asian football have already played 'home' matches against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland and Serbia, with wins or draws in three out of the five games. The Maroons started their 'away' tour with a 1-1 draw against Luxembourg in September and are continuing their European stint over the October and November breaks.

Up against Portugal at the Estadio Algarve on October 9th, the team will have hoped to better their 3-1 loss to Portugal at their last meeting. However, the hosts of the upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup took a 3-0 beating instead. The Portuguese team ranked 7th in the world and with the home advantage, showed their superior skills and experience up against the Qataris. 

The Portuguese dominated the field and kept pressure on the Maroons' goal for much of the match. They worked hard to break down Qatar's comparatively inexperienced defence - any mistakes the Qatar team made were quickly pounced on and the advantage taken. Technically, tactically and creatively, the Qataris were outclassed. They also had to contend with Christiano Ronaldo on the pitch. 

Considered one of the greatest players ever, Ronaldo was missing from the last head-to-head between the two teams. However, Portugal's manager, Fernando Santos, included the star in the team's lineup on Saturday's game to warm him up for Portugal's upcoming qualifiers encounter with Luxembourg on October 12th. A double-edged sword for the Qataris, who, on the one hand, must have delighted at playing opposite a football legend and idol, but on the other hand, will have been somewhat intimidated.

As it was, Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a close-range shot that took advantage of a defensive mistake from Bassam Al-Rawi. Qatar had two chances to equalise just before half-time, but Homam Ahmed's shot was saved by the Portuguese keeper, Diogo Costa, and Pedro Miguel's long-range kick went just over the bar. Three minutes into the second half, Portugal's Jose Fonte kicked in a rebound off Qatar's goalkeeper Saad al Sheeb taking the score to 2-0. Qatar took another shot at goal in the 69th, but Abdelkarim's attempt was high and wide. Portugal had the final say with a dying minute goal from Andre Silva.

Potentially, Portugal should have left the pitch with a higher tally - there were multiple missed opportunities, as well as several thwarted attempts. Ronaldo, who was subbed at half-time, had two shots frustrated before his opener. Andre Silva made at least six attempts before he slotted one home - the Qatari defence blocked one, and the keeper saved two. In fact, Al Sheeb put in a fair shift throughout the match. Seven of the on-target shots from A Seleção were stopped by the goalie. And, while the Qatari defence was sorely challenged for the duration of the game, their efforts to repel attacks from such a top-class team was admirable.

Lessons Learned

Portugal is a quality, top-ranked team with some outstanding players, least of all Ronaldo. The match against A Seleção was never going to be easy for the Maroons. Qatar showed organisation and balance, grit in their defensive line, and glimmers of their ability to pose an attacking threat despite the stacked odds. However, the team will undoubtedly take away harsh lessons in conceding goals through avoidable mistakes and maintaining defensive discipline under pressure. 

Going forward, the team can learn from such defeats and use the experiences to improve their strategies, tactics and performances. After all, the learning experience is what their entry to the European qualifiers is all about.

Qatar At The European Qualifiers?

Qatar has been included in the European qualifiers tournament, in Group A against Portugal, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, and Azerbaijan, to build their international experience before the 2022 World Cup tournament kicks off. The tiny nation automatically qualifies for the World Cup competition as hosts. Nonetheless, as relative newcomers to international football, they need to capitalise on every opportunity to expand their skills and tactical knowledge. Up against some of the world's best teams in Europe, the experience is invaluable.

What’s Next?

After their disappointment against Portugal, Qatar will need to pick themselves up and dust down, ready for their next international encounter against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, October 12th. The Qatari team drew 1-1 opposite the Irish in March, and both teams will be gunning to take the win in their next meeting. Qatar will be looking to use their experience at the European qualifiers and the recent Gold Cup in America, where they made it to the semi-finals, to conquer their opponents.

Main image: AP/Joao Matos

Published: October 10, 2021
Last updated: October 10, 2021
Related Articles