The problem with our team is its inability to handle pressure
TWO defeats in a row, against Uzbekistan at home on Tuesday and Iran away last week, leave Qatar at the bottom of Group A in the Asian Zone qualification for the 2018 World Cup finals. But all is not over for them. There’re eight more matches to be played and 24 points up for grabs.
Qatari players, coach and the team management should realise that they’ve only lost two battles and not the war. They can still make it, provided they make amends.
After dominating Uzbekistan for most part and creating quite a few chances, Qatar conceded a set-piece goal in the 85th minute, leaving them with no time to fight back. It was the same against Iran too. Qatar played reasonably well and had a couple of clear opportunities, and also kept the rivals at bay till injury time. But an unpardonable error by goalkeeper Amine Lecomte dashed their hopes of what could’ve been a creditable draw.
The problem with our team is their inability to handle pressure, which comes from all directions — opponents, fans, media and even the management. The media in Qatar projected the Uzbekistan match as a must-win fixture and some even said it would be the ‘judgement day’, as if a defeat would signal the end of their campaign. As much as two wins wouldn’t have guaranteed a place in the finals, the two defeats haven’t closed the door either.
Having said that, the team should seriously analyse the reason for the players’ loss of concentration towards the end and during set-piece situations. I feel the unrealistic expectations built around them put the players under pressure. We can’t win all matches and have to concede that some of the other teams are better than us. We’ve to have clear plans and strategies and play each match accordingly. I’ve noticed that more the delay in opening the account, the more pressure our players feel. The players’ intensity and physical signs increase under pressure and it causes them to make mistakes.
The immediate task for Daniel Carreno and his support staff is to prepare the players mentally and physically so that they handle the pressure better. The journey to Russia isn’t a two-match affair. There’s time and opportunity to put the campaign back on track. Believe in yourself and keep going.