Asian champions Qatar will be playing for pride when they take on Netherlands in their last Group A match on day nine of the FIFA World Cup 2022.
In the first two matches last week, Qatar lost to Ecuador and Senegal. Qatar, the side that won the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE under coach Felix Sanchez, scored only one goal in the two matches.
With nothing at stake but pride, coach Sanchez yesterday said they will be playing to make their fans ‘proud’ at Al Bayt Stadium today.
“Our objective is to be competitive (against the Netherlands). We won’t be able to qualify for the next stage or advance. We would have loved to be in a position to advance but it is not to be,” Sanchez said at a pre-match news conference yesterday.
“We will give our best against Netherlands. We will try to enjoy being here at the top level. I think that we have self confidence and we will try to compete and make our fans proud,” the 46-year-old Spaniard added.
“The players I have, they are a demanding lot. They push themselves. I think we should be happy about the efforts that have been made all this while,” he said.
“When you play a team like Netherlands you don’t need any motivation (to do well).
“It is a team with high calibre and we are not concerned about their ranking. We are fully focused on our next match,” Sanchez said.
“Netherlands have achieved great results over the years at World Cup events. Usually they finish among the top teams,” he said.
“Regarding our journey here, we have faced top African and South American teams like Senegal and Ecuador. They are some of the best teams in their region. We are aware of the reality that we had a demanding group.
“Yes, I would have preferred to have been in a better position but this international sport for you. We have a player base of just 6,000 (registered individuals).
“This team has achieved great results in the last few years. We may have lagged behind here but we do hard work daily. We will keep doing it. This is the only way we can close the gap against top teams in this competition,” Sanchez explained.
Sanchez said he doesn’t feel let down by poor results in the first two matches.
“I think I have said this a few times that we have to take into consideration that we built our team from a small population. We are at our first World Cup. I don’t feel embarrassed. These players got good results in the past. Only a few teams can be at a World Cup,” Sanchez said.
“We didn’t get the results we expected but this is part of a process that we are following. Bigger population provides with bigger potential to build stronger teams. Hopefully the team can do better (in the future),” he added.
Sanchez said every competition Qatar takes part in gives way to a new cycle of planning and preparation for the national team.
“We won the Asian Cup in 2019 and that was the end of one phase at that time. That was the end of a cycle. Every competition is a cycle. We are closing a chapter now. The country is focused on preparing for a new competition and to get behind a new era. We want to play our best football,” Sanchez said.
“If I go back in time? It’s easy to talk about things after it’s over. I think we have prepared in the best possible way, but everything has to be considered in perspective, we have been working with this group for a long time. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to.
“There was no other preparation possible. Sometimes things don’t work out. Things happen for a reason,” Sanchez said philosophically.
“I am very proud to represent Qatar. I am only thinking about the next match. It’s an honour to be playing this match tomorrow,” he said.
Qatar’s premier striker Almoez Ali told reporters yesterday: “As a player, I wanted Qatari fans to be proud of us but we didn’t win. We will try to play our best. Netherlands is a great team. We have learned a lot and hopefully we will qualify for the next World Cup. Hopefully we can leave the tournament with a positive result.”
Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal yesterday said he will be keeping an eye on the other match of the day involving Ecuador and Senegal. Netherlands and Senegal have 4 points each while Senegal have 3 as they head into the last round of matches today.
Van Gaal admitted a flurry of goals would be desirable to make sure Netherlands top Group A.
“I think it’s straightforward,” Van Gaal said when asked if he would be interested in the result between Senegal and Ecuador.
“Of course I will keep tabs on the other game and I will be informed,” the 71-year-old Dutchman said.
“But the fact of the matter is, if you want to become world champion you have to be capable of beating everyone,”the former Manchester United manager Van Gaal added.
“The countries you might not expect to progress are progressing, or at least making it very difficult for other teams to progress.”

Netherlands vs Qatar
When: Today, 6pm Where: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Capacity: 68,895

Key stats:

Netherlands need a win or a draw to qualify to the last 16 for the 11th time regardless of the result between
Senegal and Ecuador.
If Netherlands lose they will qualify directly to the second round if Ecuador beat Senegal, but if Senegal win the goal difference or fairplay tiebreaker will decide second place in the group.
Netherlands never won the title but were runners-up three times in 1974, 1978 and 2010.
Qatar were the first team to be eliminated from the finals, and it was only the second time that a host country exited the tournament in the first round after South Africa in 2010.
Qatar will try to avoid being the first host country to fail to win a game in the finals.
Mohamed Muntari made history when he scored Qatar’s first World Cup goal in the 3-1 defeat by Senegal.

Previous meetings:

This will be the first meeting between the sides.
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