By Sports Reporter/Sao Paulo
After a 2-2 draw against Paraguay, which coach Felix Sanchez described as “positive”, Qatar will face a much sterner test when they lock horns with Colombia in their second Group B clash in the Copa America tonight (12.30am, Thursday, Qatar Time).
The Asian Cup champions, one of the two guest teams in the South American tournament along with Japan, displayed grit and gumption to bounce back from two goals down to hold the Paraguayans at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Tonight’s match against the Colombians at the Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo (Morumbi) will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams and provides a golden opportunity for Qatar to get acquainted with a flamboyant style of play they are not too familiar with as they gear up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Colombia, playing their first competitive match under new coach Carlos Queiroz, laid down a statement of intent in their opening Copa America clash, defeating Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-0.
The 66-year-old handler has been quick to make his mark on a team that was knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia at the last-16 stage.
The former Real Madrid coach, and assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, only took over the reins in February after leaving his job as Iran coach having just led the team to the Asian Cup semi-finals.
He was lauded by the Colombian press on Sunday for putting in place “the perfect plan,” according to El Tiempo, and ending a winless run against Argentina that had lasted more than 11 years.
Roger Martinez opening the scoring on 72 minutes and Duvan Zapata sealed victory three minutes from time.
Colombia have lost only one of their last ten outings, going down to South Korea in a friendly, and their win over Argentina will have raised their confidence a notch.
Qatar, however, have also shown great spirit, scoring two goals in less than 10 minutes against the Paraguayans through Almoez Ali and Boualem Khoukhi, but will have to summon up all their physical and mental attributes to stun the Colombians who at one point of time were ranked third in the world.
Qatar defender Bassem al-Rawi is hoping for exactly that in his interaction with the media. “It was a good result against Paraguay but we need to forget that match. We lost many chances to score. Now we need to manage another fighting performance against Colombia,” al-Rawi said.
“We are playing the Copa America event. It shows we belong at this level and we are exhibiting a strong image of our country. We are reflecting a strong brand of football since we played in similar fashion at the Asian Cup,” the youngster added.
“We should play without fear. We should play like we did at the Asian Cup.
“We have the talent and the desire to do well at such events. Playing at Copa America will make us a strong side for the future.”
“The match against Colombia will require a double effort and I hope that we will be able to succeed and show a remarkable level against a strong team,” al-Rawi added.
After their match against Colombia, Qatar take on former FIFA World Cup champions Argentina on June 23.
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