DOHA, Qatar (AP) – The World Cup has good chances it will be even worse for Qatar if the players don’t keep their nerve in their second group game against African champions Senegal.
Qatar are already the first hosts to lose the opening game of a World Cup after being overwhelmed by their country’s biggest sporting event in a 2-0 Group A defeat by Ecuador on Sunday.
This puts them in danger of becoming only the second hosts after South Africa in 2010 to be eliminated from the group stage.
But how about losing every game? Or the bleak prospect of not scoring at the home World Cup?
That would likely garner even more criticism on FIFA’s decision to award the World Cup to the small but very wealthy Gulf Emirate, which had never qualified for football’s biggest tournament before winning the right to host it 12 years ago.
“Perhaps we felt a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility. We were nervous too,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. “I hope that we (against Senegal) are under less pressure and can approach the game more competitively. I think that’s something we can work towards.”
Qatar’s next chance to show they deserve a place in a World Cup field comes on Friday against Senegal, a team that still boasts a number of players from the top divisions in England, Spain, Italy and France. even if injured striker Sadio Mane is absent.
“We still have a lot of room for improvement,” Sanchez said after his players froze in the face of global scrutiny against Ecuador.
Qatar may be the 2019 Asian champions but every member of the squad plays at home for a local club, which is perhaps an indicator of the gap between them and the standard required at a World Cup.
Qatar’s struggles also stand out after other sides from Arab countries made themselves more at home at the inaugural World Cup in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s colossal surprise loss to Argentina followed by impressive performances from Tunisia and Morocco in the first week of the tournament.
Senegal also slipped into an opening defeat at the World Cup but caused problems for a strong Dutch side before midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and defender Abdou Diallo broke the West Africans’ rhythm in the second half and the Dutch took advantage to score two late goals.
Kouyate is likely to be eliminated from the Qatar game but Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said the focus for his team is on offense where he has high expectations for a new combination of Ismaila Sarr, Boulaye Dia and Krepin Diatta.
They didn’t quite get it right in their first game together after Mane’s absence but if they manage against Qatar, as Cisse expects, it could be another long day at the World Cup for the hosts.
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