COACH Jorge Fossati effected a few changes to his starting line-up and also tried different formations in pursuit of that elusive first win when Qatar faced Syria in their fourth match of the Asian Zone final-round qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday.
Though the only goal in Qatar’s victory came via a penalty, Fossati’s shuffling of the pack and shift in tactics paid them rich dividends. Unlike in their previous fixtures, Al Annabi grew in stature as the match progressed and avoided repeating that now-familiar last-minute meltdown. In fact, but for the profligacy of striker Sebastian Soria, there should’ve been a healthier score line.
Be that it may, the much-needed victory has revived Qatar’s flagging fortunes. Though they’re fifth in the group, the full points should serve as a huge morale booster for the team in the remaining matches.
Fossati had sounded confident of making a turnaround at his pre-match Press conference, insisting his team was just one win away from regaining the lost touch.
The physically-superior Syrians had a slight edge early on as they enjoyed more possession with precise passing and looked more confident too. And Qatar couldn’t make any serious impression on their rivals till Hassan Al Haidous converted from the spot.
But the goal worked wonders and the momentum swung in their favour as Qatari players raised the level of their game by a notch or two. The defence too stood its ground despite Syria testing it towards the end. The players seemed to have heeded Fossati’s advice to play with a free mind and not to be unduly worried about the result.
There were quite a few positives for Qatar even in their 2-3 loss to South Korea last week. It was their third consecutive defeat and could’ve had a demoralising effect, but much to the credit of the coach and players, they didn’t let it affect them as they pulled off a creditable win which, indeed, has offered them a lifeline.
I hope the players will sustain the momentum and achieve their ultimate goal of qualifying for Russia.