August 29, 2021

Qatar Return To Europe To Challenge Serbia and Portugal

The Qatar national football team landed in Europe over a week ago and have been busy preparing for their second outing at the European 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The squad, based in Vienna for their precursory training, will head to Hungary’s Nagyerdei Stadium in the city of Debrecen at the beginning of September for their highly anticipated matches against Serbia and Portugal. After which, they will fly to Luxembourg to take on the country’s national team for the second time during the tournament. While the Maroons results against their opponents do not count in the final qualifiers tally, the outcomes of each game will be watched with interest by many around the world. The tiny 2022 World Cup host nation, with relatively little international experience, will be testing their mettle in Europe, football’s birthplace and home to some of the best teams and players in the world - the results will count in terms of credibility and reputation at least.

Qatar in Europe

The European 2022 World Cup qualifiers comprise fifty-five member teams drawn into ten groups (A - J) - five groups comprising five teams each and five groups comprising six. The competition is contested in two rounds that will decide which teams advance to the thirteen UEFA slots available at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Round One, held from March to November 2021, will see each team play home and away matches against every other group member. All ten group winners will directly qualify for the World Cup, while the runners up from each group will go into Round Two - the play-offs - to decide which teams will take the final three slots at the 2022 tournament. 

The Qatari squad, invited as UEFA's tournament guests, has been placed in Group A for Round One. The Qatari's will compete alongside Portugal, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan. 

As hosts, the national team automatically qualifies for the World Cup event. However, though the team has improved significantly in recent years and currently hold the title of reigning Asian Champions, their international encounters are relatively limited. Their participation in the European qualifiers has been arranged to provide the Arab team with a valuable international competitive experience ahead of the 2022 tournament. They will be up against a different type of opponent with a distinct style of play, not to mention some of the world's best teams, allowing them to grow the team's experience and expand its tactical knowledge of its opponents. A good result at the World Cup would also cement its efforts to raise its profile in the footballing world.

Form to Date

The Qatari squad began their European campaign in March against the national teams from Luxembourg, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Ireland. Qatar's first two matches against 98th ranked Luxembourg on March 24th, and 108th ranked Azerbaijan on March 27th both ended in a win for the Maroons. Though neither European team's form on the international football scene would set the world alight, Azerbaijan managed to hold off Portugal (then ranked 5th in the world) during the team's first qualifying bout on March 24th. The Portuguese only managed a win due to an own goal from Azerbaijan. So, while on paper, Qatar should easily have beaten both teams on the day, Azerbaijan's form against Portugal must have given the Qatari squad some cause for concern. 

Notwithstanding, the Maroons defensive tactics gave them a 1-0 win against the Luxembourgers and a 2-1 lead over the Azerbaijanis - coming back from one-nil down with a supremely confident display in the second half of their match. On March 30th, the Qatari squad finished the tournament's opening round with a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland. Then 43rd in the FIFA rankings, the Boys in Green were predicted to challenge the Qatari team. Their first 2022 qualifiers match saw the Irish perform well against Serbia, losing only two goals to three. However, against the Qataris, and following a loss to Luxembourg, they only found goal once and failed to break the Qatari defence during the rest of the match.

So, Qatar's European debut was a success. Added to this, the team has recently returned from North America, where they successfully made it to the 2021 Gold Cup semi-finals as CONCACAF guests. In August, they also had their FIFA rankings notched up from 58th to 42nd in the world. With such favourable outcomes under their belts, they will have returned to Europe and their upcoming encounters on a high.

September Predictions

The Portuguese currently sit top of Group A on 7 points and ahead of Serbia on a goal difference of three. However, the start of their campaign at the qualifiers was nothing to write home about. Against Azerbaijan, the Portuguese squad were held off from scoring on numerous occasions and only managed a 1-0 win after an own goal from the Azerbaijanis. Against Serbia, Portugal scored the opening two goals but seemed to lose focus and failed to contain their opponents enough to stop them from equalising. A disallowed goal from Ronaldo in stoppage time added insult to injury. And, facing Luxembourg, the Portuguese only seemed to come to life after The Red Lions' Gerson Rodrigues scored a magnificent diving header in the first half. The shocked Portuguese came round to score three times and take the eventual win, but the performance was somewhat ropey. Following a surprisingly limp showing in March, and after bombing out of the EURO 2020s (Round of 16), the previously 5th ranked team has slipped to 8th. A small drop for one of the best teams in the world with one of the world's best players, Christiano Ronaldo, within their ranks. Nonetheless, it will surely be a confidence boost for the Qataris who enter the competition on a roll. The Maroons only need to hold the Portuguese to a goalless draw or a low scoring loss to prove their calibre in Europe.

Serbia, currently ranked 29th by FIFA, is second in the standings on 7 points. The Serbs have had an impressive tournament to date. The team gave strong performances against Portugal 2-3, the Republic of Ireland 2-2 and Azerbaijan 2-1, with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic ending the competition as the qualifiers' top scorer and assist-provider. The Qataris will have their work cut out against a confident squad that has steadily improved over recent years.

Luxembourg, currently ranked 96th, sits third in the table on 3 points, with the Republic of Ireland and Azerbaijan in fourth and fifth place respectively, each with 0 points. If Qatar's results counted towards the competition, they would currently sit ahead of Luxembourg with 7 points. Having beaten The Red Lions previously, the Qatari squad should defeat their opponents a second time. However, they would do well not to be complacent or let their guards down too much - the Portuguese team's experience being a good example of the result.

Match Schedule

Qatar’s fixtures will be held and located as follows:

FixtureDate/Time (local time in Qatar)Venue/Location
FixtureQatar vs SerbiaDate/Time (local time in Qatar)Wednesday September 2nd / 21:45Venue/LocationNagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen, Hungary*
FixtureQatar vs PortugalDate/Time (local time in Qatar)Saturday September 4th / 19:00Venue/LocationNagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen, Hungary*
FixtureLuxembourg vs QatarDate/Time (local time in Qatar)Tuesday September 7th / 21:45Venue/LocationStade de Luxembourg, Gasperich, Luxembourg

* Qatar's 'home' games are being held on European soil to facilitate shorter travel times for their Group A opponents and ensure that travel restrictions implemented by European governments to combat COVID-19 are easily upheld.

Squad List

The Qatar Football Association recently announced its 31 strong squad list for their upcoming games in Europe. The list will be narrowed down to 23 players following the end of the pre-competition training camp in Vienna. Many of the players featuring in the European qualifiers are the same as those who returned recently from the successful Gold Cup campaign in North America, including top goal scorer, Golden Boot Award and Best XI winner for the event, Almoez Ali. The team also includes team captain and most capped player Hassan Al Haydos and other top scorers for the team Akram Afif, Boualem Khoukhi and Abdulkarim Hassan.

September European 2022 Qualifiers Squad List:

PlayerMamoud AbunadaPositionGoalkeeper
PlayerMeshal BarshamPositionGoalkeeper
PlayerSaad Al SeedPositionGoalkeeper
PlayerSalak ZakariaPositionGoalkeeper
PlayerYussef HassanPositionGoalkeeper
PlayerAbdulkarim HassanPositionDefender
PlayerAhmed SuhailPositionDefender
PlayerBasam Al RawiPositionDefender
PlayerBoualem KhoukhiPositionDefender
PlayerHomam AhmedPositionDefender
PlayerJassem GaberPositionDefender
PlayerMusaab KhederPositionDefender
PlayerPedro MiguelPositionDefender
PlayerTareq SalmanPositionDefender
PlayerSultan Al BrakePositionDefender
PlayerAbdulaziz HatemPositionMidfielder
PlayerAbdullah Al AhrakPositionMidfielder
PlayerAbdullah MarafiyaPositionMidfielder
PlayerAhmed MoeinPositionMidfielder
PlayerAli AsadPositionMidfielder
PlayerAssim MadiboPositionMidfielder
PlayerKarim BoudiafPositionMidfielder
PlayerKhaled MohammedPositionMidfielder
PlayerMohamed WaadPositionMidfielder
PlayerAhmed AlaaeldinPositionForward
PlayerAkram AfifPositionForward
PlayerAlmoez AliPositionForward
PlayerHassan Al HaydosPositionForward
PlayerIsmael MohamedPositionForward
PlayerMohamed MuntariPositionForward
PlayerYoussef AbdurisagPositionForward

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Published: August 29, 2021
Last updated: August 29, 2021
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