The 1-3 defeat to Senegal at Al Thumama Stadium yesterday was strictly a respectable performance from Qatar, but nonetheless a disappointing one for the Asian champions. Substitute Mohamed Muntari’s towering header in the 74th minute brought some life back into Qatari fans, but substitute Bamba Dieng scored a third for Senegal six minutes later to silence the crowd.
For the second game running, home fans could not bear to watch their team’s misery till the end, taking the exit route after the third goal. In fact, there were swathes of empty seats after Famara Diedhiou fired Senegal into a two-goal lead in the 48th minute with Boulaye Dia earlier having opened the scoring in the 41st minute.
There were many similarities for Felix Sanchez’s side from their opening night defeat to Ecuador. Sanchez had admitted his players were nervous making their World Cup debut last Sunday, but yesterday’s performance too was sloppy and lacking in creativity.
The Al Annabi were a much-improved side after the break but only after Diedhiou had found the net via header three minutes into the second half. Senegal were far from impressive themselves, which allowed Qatar a chance to get back into the game.
Having at least scored a goal in the tournament, Qatar will now hope to salvage some pride when they take on the Netherlands in their final game on Tuesday at the Al Bayt Stadium.
“Today we showed what we are able to do. We were competitive and we played well,” Qatar manager Sanchez said. “Obviously the result is key but we showed a better performance. We have to get ready to play against the Netherlands. We know that it’s going to be an even tougher game against them.”
Sanchez, who has been at the helm of Qatar side since 2017 and led them to their maiden Asian Cup title two years later, said his side should not be branded a “failure and disappointment.”
“I do think we played a good game. When you come here you need to know where you’re coming from (as a country). If this is a failure and disappointment, that depends on expectations,” Sanchez said.
“Our goal was to be competitive... We’ve been working for so many months to be able to give a good performance. But sometimes the match does not play out as you expect. It also depends on the opponents’ performance. We didn’t play at our top level. We were competitive but didn’t improve. Qatar is a small country, not a very large population. The local league is not a very competitive one. It’s our first time at the World Cup. If we can take part again, that would be great. It’s always useful to get more experience,” the 46-year-old added.
Sanchez dropped goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb – who had a horror game against Ecuador – with Meshaal Barsham replacing him, but the latter did not inspire much confidence either. Defender Isamil Mohamed and midfielder Assim Madibo were also brought in for Bassam Hisham and Abdulaziz Hatem but the home side failed to find the possession and looked nervy every time Senegal launched an attack.
Barsham was caught flapping like al-Sheeb did in the first game when defending the corner with Senegal coach Aliou Cisse’s attacking 4-4-2 formation causing trouble. However, without injured Sadio Mane the African champions have lacked the firepower which proved them costly in their defeat to Dutch side earlier.
Ismaila Sarr, Nampalys Mendy, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Youssouf Sabaly also squandered chances to score before Qatar gifted them one. A routine clearance in the box was messed up by Boualem Khoukhi, as the defender slipped and fell on his back, which allowed Dia to fire low past Barsham.
A few minutes earlier, Qatar’s call for penalty was waived off by referee Antonio Lahoz after forward Akram Afif was brought down by Sarr with VAR not changing the decision.
To make matters worse, Qatar were two goals down just three minutes into the second half. Qatar defenders were caught napping when Diedhiou had acres of space as he nodded a header in from Ismail Jakobs’ corner.
With three points seemingly in the bag, the Lions of Teranga took the foot of the pedal as Qatar created a flurry of chances. Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had to be alert when Almoez Ali launched a long-range effort, tipping it over. Mendy was then forced to a sensational reflex save, diving to his right to stop a point-blank effort from Ismail Mohamed.
With time running out, Muntari gave Qatar hope with a powerful header Mendy could do nothing about. Cisse’s decision to make all five substitutions by the 77th minute looked to be risky. However, substitute Dieng swept the ball into the net to calm the nerves in Senegal camp and crush Qatar’s slim hopes of rescuing a point and staying alive in their own World Cup.
Key stats• Qatar have become the 75th different country to score a goal in FIFA World Cup history.
• Mohammed Muntari is the first-ever player to score for Qatar in the World Cup.
• The 3-1 victory for Senegal signals the first win for an African team in this tournament.
• The two-goal win represents Senegal’s biggest-ever margin of victory in a World Cup match.
• Famara Diedhiou has become Senegal’s oldest-ever World Cup goalscorer at the age of 29 years and 345 days.
• This is the second time that Senegal have scored three goals in a World Cup match – the previous occasion was a 3-3 draw with Uruguay in 2002.