By Sports Reporter/Doha
In what will serve as a huge boost to Qatar, Bassam al-Rawi has recovered from an injury as coach Felix Sanchez chose not to tinker with his 23-member squad ahead of their Copa America opener against Paraguay at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro tomorrow.
Young defender al-Rawi, who has been battling a retractor muscle injury for some time now, missed Qatar’s international friendly against Brazil on June 5. However, the 21-year-old has returned to training, which has convinced Sanchez of al-Rawi’s fitness.
Al-Rawi played a key role in Qatar’s maiden Asian Cup title win earlier this year and Sanchez would be hoping for a similar performance from the Al Duhail starlet. Al-Rawi has shown maturity beyond his years in the heart of the Qatar defence. At the Asian Cup, al-Rawi was a calming influence as centre-back. He also displayed a terrific ability from dead-ball situation by scoring twice from freekicks, and will offer Qatar plenty going forward as he does in defence.
Meanwhile, Qatar squad trained in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. Sanchez’s men were based in coastal town of Porta Belo for the last two weeks as they prepared for the world’s oldest football tournament. Qatar will become the 19th team to take part in Copa America, as they and Japan are guest teams in South American football showpiece. After the Paraguay encounter, Qatar will take on Colombia on June 16 and Argentina on June 23 in Group D, which is called “Group of Death.”
Meanwhile, Japan plan on displaying their “strength” at the Copa America when the Blue Samurai make their second appearance as guests in a tough Group C alongside champions Chile, coach Hajime Moriyasu said.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in the Copa America, it’s one of the highest level tournaments in the world,” the coach told reporters in Sao Paulo. “How can we show our strength and which way we play, that’s what we want to find out in this tournament,” the coach of the Asian Cup runners-up added.
Japan may not be amongst the favourites but Moriyasu insisted his players have arrived in Brazil with a winning mindset. “We will play in order to win the title, but first and foremost for us is to play game by game and do our best in each, then think of the next one,” the 50-year-old coach underlined.
Previously, Moriyasu had announced that the Copa America would serve as a warm-up for the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo next year. The Japanese arrived in Brazil on Wednesday and will play their opening match against Chile in Sao Paulo on Monday.
They held their first training session on Thursday at Brazilian giants Sao Paulo’s headquarters, where around 400 children and adults of Japanese origin watched the hour-long practice. Their first match will likely feel like a home game given the huge Japanese migrant community in the sprawling metropolis. There is an estimated 1.5mn people of Japanese descent in Brazil, many of whom live in Sao Paulo.
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