HOPE and confidence are keys to success. But an indomitable spirit to fight is more important, especially when you’ve your back to the wall.
Qatar have only one win (against Syria) and a draw (vs China) to their credit from the five matches they played in the six-team Group A of Asian Zone qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. With just four points, they’re fifth in the group and only the top two earn an automatic qualification for the finals.
With five more matches to go, there’re 15 points up for grabs and, mathematically speaking, Qatar still have a chance to make it, at least through the play-off route.
But we all know the road ahead for Qatar isn’t so easy. The results of their next two matches — against Iran at home on Thursday and Uzbekistan (away) next Tuesday — will make or break them.
Our record against Iran isn’t all that bad. Almost always, we’ve managed to put up a spirited show against them. When the teams met in the first leg last September, the scoreboard read 0-0 till the 90th minute and it was two stoppage-time goals that gave Iran the full points.
Similarly, Uzbekistan’s winner against Qatar too came towards the end, in the 86th minute. And against South Korea, we even enjoyed a 2-1 lead at half-time before conceding two quick goals in the second half — all proving our team’s inability to maintain its concentration till the end.
A sad truism in football is that it’s the goals that count, but the close battles in the first leg give Qatar some hope and confidence as they start the second-leg campaign.
Their confidence stems from the fact that Qatari clubs Lekhwiya and Al Rayyan are doing well in the AFC Champions League. When we realise that these two sides, along with Al Sadd, contribute a majority of players to the national team, it gives rise to some level of optimism even among the fans.
For coach Jorge Fossati too, it’ll be make-or-break games. If he’s able to revive Qatar’s fortunes, then one can expect him to get an extension, perhaps, at least until the 2019 Asian Cup.
On the contrary, it could be the end of the road for him. If past history is any indication, then Qatar would definitely rope in a more acclaimed coach with an eye on forming a strong squad in time for the 2022 World Cup.