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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Qatar look to regroup after tough Indian draw

There are no easy games anymore, says coach Felix Sanchez after his team fail to score despite dominating their rivals.
Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag Tries To Get Past India’s Mandar Rao Desai And Nikhil Poojary
Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag tries to get past India’s Mandar Rao Desai and Nikhil Poojary. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

The grim face of Felix Sanchez conveyed everything about a night that did not go according to plan.

The Qatar national coach was an unhappy man and he had every reason to be displeased, at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd on Tuesday night.

His players had dropped two points against a side ranked 40 places below them on the FIFA chart. They had failed to defeat an Asian team for the first time this year. And worryingly, they had failed to score a goal against an Asian opposition for the first time this year.

After a draining 90 minutes in the joint World Cup/Asian Cup qualifying round Group E match against India, Qatar certainly deserved more. Sanchez felt so, and his opposite number, Igor Stimac, also thought the same way.

Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag (left) And India’s Nikhil Poojary Vie For The Ball
India’s Mandar Rao Desai fights for possession with Qatar’s Pedro (centre) and Yusuf Abdurisag during their joint World Cup/Asian Cup qualifying round game in Doha on Tuesday.IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

“Qatar deserved more from this game. They created more chances,” said Stimac after his players had earned a famous result against the Asian champions.

Sanchez couldn’t agree more.

“We created many chances and went into goal-scoring positions on many occasions but today, it wasn’t our day. We were not accurate enough, so we didn’t get the three points. We’re disappointed,” said the Spaniard.

In a long qualifying journey, the result itself was not a matter of concern for Qatar. They still head the table with four points, but the missed chances should be a worry, even if one takes into consideration the exceptional performance of the Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Alert and agile, he was everywhere and had he not stopped a clutch of attempts from Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos early in the game, the home team would have been in a far happier position. Sanchez thought as much.

“An early goal would’ve definitely changed the situation,” he agreed, while highlighting the hard road that awaits all teams in the qualifying phase.

“There’re no easy games. And that’s football. Nobody expected Qatar to win the Asian Cup, but we made it. It was well-deserved. Today, Saudi Arabia drew with Yemen. The sides are better prepared now,” added Sanchez.

The staunch Indian resistance in the initial part of the match adversely affected Qatar’s play. Anxiety crept in as they failed to get a breakthrough and subsequently they squandered some of the easy chances that came their way. They also missed the energy of Akram Afif, whose absence raised many an eyebrow.

“With Akram, we score a lot and I’m sure he is going to help us in the coming matches,” said Sanchez, without delving too much into the reasons for his absence. “I don’t have a problem with Akram or any other player in the squad,” stressed the 43-year-old coach.

Qatar’s next match against Oman is more than a month away – enough time to heal the wounds, put the worries behind and refocus on the goals. Perhaps, also an opportunity to learn how to unlock packed defences – a situation they are likely to encounter more in the future from weaker teams.

“This wasn’t our best day, but this result will definitely help us grow. We’re going to try harder and get more points to qualify for the next round,” asserted Sanchez, looking at the larger picture.

The positive note he struck could well be the boost Qatar need on the road to China 2023.