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Qatar: A Footballing Powerhouse?

Despite the negative publicity surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the national team continue to make strides, beating opponents at will.

When the words Qatar and football are brought together, one can’t help but think of the controversial FIFA 2022 World Cup bidding process. Qatar’s reputation in football has been tainted due to the alleged bribery scandals surrounding the allocation of the 2022 World Cup.

The Gulf Nation’s reputation is finally changing thanks to the Qatar national side. Qatar’s national squad are slowly becoming a force in Asia. In the past year, Qatar have won ten games, drawn four and lost two. They’ve beaten Yemen 6-0, defeated Saudi Arabia at home and drawn with Macedonia in Italy.

This week saw the Gulf Nation defeat Australia 1-0 at home. Qatar are on a three game winning streak having beaten Uzbekistan (3-0) and Lebanon (5-0) during the recent international break.

As a nation known for its wealth and not its footballing process, Qatar’s recent rise has been nothing short of phenomenal. In 2014, under the guidance of Djamel Belmadi, the Qatar B team won the West Asian Football Federation Championship, having gone unbeaten through the tournament.

Soon after winning the WAFF, Belmadi was appointed as head coach for the senior team where he has maintained his success. Qatar head into next year’s Asian Cup will a real chance of improving on their Quarter Final appearance from the games in 2011. In a group containing Iran, the UAE and Bahrain, there’s every possibility they’ll do it.

Who’s responsible for the improvement in Qatar football?

Simply put, the financiers. Whilst Qatar only came to Football’s attention recently, efforts have been made over the past decade to improve the standard of football in the Gulf Region. Foreign coaches and star players have been recruited in the past for Qatar’s football league in a bid to improve the standard of the national team.

Time and resources have been put into building a youth football structure from the ground up in the country, itself a Herculean task. So far the results speak for themselves. Qatar are streamlining the development of their football team so that the Gulf Nation is ready for 2022. They don’t want to repeat South Africa’s performance in 2010 when they became the only host nation not to make it past the group stages of a World Cup. There’s little to suggest at the moment that Qatar won’t be ready.

Just this week, Qatar were resolute against an Australian team that was desperately searching for a win. Australia’s coach Ange Postecoglou went into the game under heavy criticism from Socceroos fans for the team’s poor performances of late. For 70 minutes Qatar kept the Australians at bay even under heavy bombardment from the Australian midfield. Just when it appeared that the Socceroos would put Qatar to the sword, Qatar pounced and went ahead.

A Chris Herd clearance across the face of his own goal saw the Socceroos fail to clear the ball from their own penalty area. The ball fell forgivingly to Khalfan Ibrahim who coolly swept the ball into the net.

For Djamel Belmadi, it’s three wins in as many games. For those backing the Qatar football project, it’s confirmation that their investments are paying dividends.

Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.

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