Fancied Qatar ready for Oman challenge
Asian champions look to maintain top position in the group in their fourth game of the qualifying round.
Qatar can expect a serious challenge from friendly foes Oman as they look to maintain their top position in Group E of the joint Asian Cup 2023/ World Cup 2022 qualifying round at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah on Tuesday.
Having won two and drawn one of their three matches so far, Qatar occupy the top spot in their group with four points. Oman, who have won both matches they have played, are behind by only a point. The two teams are the heavyweights in the group – also featuring India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – and both would not like to cede an inch in the big game.
Qatar might have the record and rankings on their side – they are the Asian champions and at 62, they occupy a much higher spot than Oman (84) in the FIFA rankings. But after three matches vastly different from one another, Felix Sanchez’s men are well aware that they have to be on their toes all the time.
They started with a 6-0 romp against Afghanistan, but were then held to a goalless draw at home by India. Against Bangladesh four days ago, the Maroons had to fight hard in soggy ground conditions to come out victorious. To get the ball rolling was a test at Dhaka, but Qatar still managed to get two goals to subdue an opposition that threatened to pose a challenge in their familiar territory.
Oman also had a hard first game against India, with late goals earning them a 2-1 away win. They then drubbed Afghanistan 3-0 in their second match at home, indicating they will certainly pose tricky questions that Qatar will have to answer to force their third win.
Qatar certainly have the talent and skills to tide over the problems that Oman might pose, but they need to be fit and ready for a physical contest. It has been a tough few weeks for many of the Qatari players who are part of the Al Sadd team, competing in the league as well as in the Asian Champions League. Turning out for the national team generates a special motivation and Sanchez will be looking for the players to bring that extra energy into the contest on Tuesday.
Qatar will also relish playing at the Al Janoub Stadium after the mud bath in Dhaka, but they do need the presence of Akram Afif for that extra edge in attack. Afif, after a much-publicised absence against India, came on as a substitute against Bangladesh and set up the second goal. Hassan Al Haydos can generate openings but Afif, with his clever movements, creates chances out of nowhere and that is a priceless quality. Almoez Ali, Afif’s partner upfront, certainly, would love that.
Qatar would also need to tighten up their defence, which looked a bit wobbly against Bangladesh at times.
Oman, coached by Dutchman Erwin Koeman, have potent weapons in Al Mundhir Al Alawi and Abdul Aziz Al Maqbali, who have already scored two goals each in the competition. They will need extra watching.
The teams have met five times in the past in Asian and World Cup qualifiers and Qatar hold a 3-0 advantage with two matches drawn. Overall, in 31 matches, Qatar have won 16, lost six and drawn nine. Sanchez’s men would love to boost that record on Tuesday, with the home crowd cheering them on.
In the other Group E game on Tuesday, India take on Bangladesh in Kolkata.