Coach Bruno Pinheiro yesterday warned opponents Iraq that his young side will be aiming to go all-out and grab the chance ‘to create history’ when the two sides clash in the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final today.
Qatar, the Asian champions, drew 1-1 against the UAE on Friday to qualify for the last-four stage while hosts Iraq beat Yemen 5-0 to reach the semi-finals.
“History is not a measure of what we can or cannot do. I feel these young players can create history,” Pinheiro said at a pre-match press conference.
“Winning is important for everybody to change the image and get the win for our fans. We are focusing on what we can change. Perhaps this will give us the motivation to accomplish a win - something that has been absent for long,” he added.
“I hope that all players will be prepared despite the short gap between matches. I am sure that it will be a difficult match and the team which with less mistakes will win but we are sure of our tactical preparation,” the Qatar coach said.
“Iraq is a good team. Their players have impressive physical strength. They have home advantage as they are playing home soil. I am sure they will do their best to win but we are also ready,” he added.
“I will not announce the playing XI as I am focusing on recovery of the players. Everybody made a great effort and due to the short time there’s no room for lots of substitutions until players are fully aware of the tactics implemented on the field. I believe that their fans will prove to be a big support for Iraq, but this won’t put us under pressure. It is going to be fun and we are ready to absorb the pressure. I have to say this is all good experience for my players to play in such tough circumstances,” Pinheiro said.
Qatari player Hamam Amin said yesterday: “We are happy to have reached the semi-finals. Now we want to win against Iraq who are a strong team on their home soil. We will put our efforts to win.”
Iraqi coach Jesús Casas said his team is riding good momentum going into the semi-finals.
“Reaching the semi-finals is a great honour for us. In the beginning of the tournament, we were lacking in confidence and we were receiving negative feedback but the players showed character after the first match,” Casas said yesterday.
“Qatar are a big team that has players from the 2022 World Cup, but we are playing on our home soil. We are aiming to satisfy our fans. Yes, it would be a difficult match but we hope that luck would be on our side,” the Spaniard said.
“All players are well prepared. I am not intimidated by Qatar although it’s a good team but we have to be careful from making any silly mistakes that could cost us dearly. Football always throws up with surprises. When I saw the stadium full, I was thrilled because I haven’t seen something similar before. The fans have been very supportive,” the coach said.
“I am expecting a physical match. That’s why we have worked on players rotation. If we reached extra time, it’s going to get difficult and both teams will be exhausted by then,” the Iraqi coach said.
“I will rely on 11 best players for this match. I might use other players also. Each one of them has a different personality therefore all of them are important for me. We are close to the final and I am dealing with each match differently. There is no doubt that Qatar is the most important team at this stage,” he added. “The playing strategy depends on each match - for example in the match against Saudi Arabia we made some changes due to the weather and pitch conditions. Football is similar to life; you have to be open to change,” he concluded.
Iraqi player Mohamed Nazem said yesterday: “This match is different than the group stage matches. We are expecting a difficult match.” We thank our coach giving us great confidence. Qatar has experienced elements but our advantage is us playing in front of our fans.”
In the day’s other semi-final, defending champions Bahrain face Oman. The Qatar vs Iraq match kicks off at 4:15pm while the Bahrain vs Oman clash starts at 8:15pm.