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Sunday, January 29, 2023
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Big early boot for host Qatar

GETTING the early boot should not discourage host Qatar.

Even before their third preliminary match, they’re out, in a rare first in the tournament’s 92-year history. 

But the premature exit should not be called a “failure and disappointment” from the World Cup, says Qatar manager Felix Sanchez.

The Middle Eastern side battled valiantly before Senegal condemned them to a second straight defeat – and subsequently became the first country knocked out of the competition after the Netherlands drew 1-1 against Ecuador.

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Qatar made history by becoming the first country from this desert-region to host the World Cup. And now have the unwanted record of becoming just the second home team to exit the competition at the group stage, after South Africa in 2010.

‘SMALL COUNTRY’

Spaniard coach Sanchez said: “Qatar is a small country, not a very large population. The local league is not a very competitive one. It’s our first time at the World Cup. If we can take part again, that would be great. It’s always useful to get more international experience.”

He reiterated that “our “goal was to be competitive…we have been working for so many months to be able to give a good performance”. Clinically, he added: “But sometimes the match does not play out as you expect. It also depends on the opponents’ performance. I must admit that we didn’t play at our top level.”

Poor Qatar: Ever since the host-choice was made in 2010, it also sparked instant criticism – over the logistics of holding a sporting event in a country where summer-time temperatures regularly top 100 degrees; over allegations of bribery and corruption among FIFA officials who voted for Qatar; and over concerns about human rights abuses that have persisted in the years since.

HOLD HEAD HIGH

Rather amazingly, off the field, Qatar is the smallest nation to ever host the World Cup, a complex international sporting event that draws huge numbers of visitors and requires the infrastructure to accommodate them. 

They controversially edged out USA, mind you, and you can imagine the significance to this extraordinary selection.

Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, has insisted his nation can hold its head in hosting the games.

“Qatar 2022 is finally here and we’ve so far celebrated with a mesmerising opening ceremony, passion in the stands and exciting football on the pitch,” he said.

“Our nation is gripped by football fever and the party will last all the way to the final on December 18.”

* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.

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