Qatar takes on second-placed Oman In Group E at Al Janoub stadium on Tuesday evening looking to lay down a marker against their Gulf neighbours.
It’s been a curious campaign so far for the Maroons, who have yet to reach the heights of their Asian Cup triumph at the turn of the year. Although, it’s clear that this campaign is only serving to add meaningful competitive games ahead of their World Cup bow in 2022.
A routine thrashing of Afghanistan was followed up by a stodgy 0-0 draw at home against India, a game in which Felix Sanchez’s side dominated but was unable to break down India, who came to Qatar with a distinct game plan to frustrate the Asian Champions.
Last time out, Qatar came away from Bangladesh with a gritty 2-0 win, playing in conditions akin to rain-ravaged Sunday league pitches in the UK, a far cry from the pristine surface at the Aspire Zone. Goals from Yusef Abdurusag and a stoppage-time strike from Karim Boudiaf sealed a far from convincing victory.
Yusef Abdurusag bagged his first-ever national team goal, and the 20-year old should play a part on Tuesday. The winger has been one of the stand out players in the QSL this season, and the on-loan Al Sadd star has been a regular starter at Al Arabi and has developed quickly under the tutelage of former Iceland boss Heimir Hallgrimsson.
Seen as competition for Akram Afif in the team, Abdurusag represented Qatar at the U20 World Cup in Poland. Blessed with plenty of pace and providing he plays regularly for Al Arabi could force his way into Sanchez’s plans for the Gulf Cup and even the 2020 Copa America. It will certainly be interesting to see how Abdurusag develops in the next year with the help of Hallgrimsson and the full weight of the Aspire Zone behind him.
A match against fellow GCC side will always be of special significance to Qatari fans, especially in light of the recent political tensions in the region. Qatari fans will always have fond memories of how the national team were greeted as hero’s in Oman after leaving the UAE with the Asian Cup.
Yet away from the pleasantries and the fraternal atmosphere at Al Janoub stadium, Felix Sanchez will be pondering the motivations of his squad. Having reached the heights of clinching the Asian Cup, can this squad go again and win the Gulf Cup, and go a step further and reach the knockout phases of the 2020 Copa America?
For now, it seems that Sanchez is playing it safe, upgrading the squad of Asian Champions by bringing in younger players and using them sparingly with Abdurusag being the prime example. It could be vital for the Spanish coach, as he looks to keep motivating his squad of players ahead of bigger tests.
Qatar takes on Oman on Tuesday at Al Janoub stadium. You can follow all the action with beIN CONNECT.