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Qatar showed their battling qualities on Sunday evening, coming back from two goals down to pick up a 2-2 draw with Paraguay in their Copa America debut. Ahead of their second group game against Colombia on Thursday, let's take a look at some takeaways from their Copa America bow.
Maroon's commitment to playing the right way
Conceding a goal within the fourth minute would have rocked the confidence of any side. You have to credit the mental resilience of Al Annabi, to continue with their brand of football, taking their game to Paraguay and looking the better side in the opening half. Even after the gut punch of Derlis González’s second half howitzer Qatar continued to play their brand of football, and to their credit it eventually paid dividends.
Afif and Ali have European Pedigree
Akram Afif & Almoez Ali justified their hype as two of the most promising young strikers at the Copa America with performances beyond their years at the Maracana. The second half particularly, showed how their searing pace and an eye for goal can cause defensive problems for any side.
Almoez Ali, who finished as top scorer at the Asian Cup, scored a memorable looping opener to give throw Qatar a lifeline, whilst Akram Afif produced a perfect assist for Boualem Khoukhi who saw his goalward shot eventually bundled in by Juan Rojas to level the scores. As Al Annabi pushed for a winner, both players lead the line well with their pace stretching the play at the right time for the side.
At just 22-years of age, both players could easily pursue a career outside of Qatar in Europe, and clubs will be already paying attention to their abilities.
Sanchez Faith in Madibo Justified
A huge reason why this Qatar team works so well is the long-term bonds between coach and players. Felix Sanchez has managed the vast majority of this side from a young age since arriving at the Aspire Zone in 2006.
That relationship was evident with Assim Madibo. The Duhail midfielder nicknamed Makélélé for his industrious style picked up an early yellow card, which could have derailed Qatar’s chances even before they had begun. However, Sanchez stuck with his man even as tempers flared and the 22-year old played a crucial role in recycling possession and winning the ball back for his side.
Quartet on a tightrope for Argentina game
Referee Diego Haro dished out no fewer than six yellow cards during the game, four of which came to Qatari players in key positions. With the quartet of Tarek Salman, Boualem Khoukhi, Assim Madibo and Abdulkarim Hassan all carded, they could miss out on a potentially decisive game against Argentina if they picked up a yellow next time out against Colombia. Sanchez will certainly be stressing to his side to keep their cool so they don’t miss out on a date with Lionel Messi.
Plenty of character shown, but Colombia will be a new test
Qatar justified its inclusion in the Copa America with their battling display against Paraguay. However, Sanchez and his charges will be well aware of the challenge posed by Colombia who brushed aside Argentina 2-0 in their opening game. Just like Qatar, Los Cafeterios boss Carlos Queiroz builds from a firm defensive base, looking to spring forward on the counter and his side has the physicality to be a threat from corners. The Maroons will have to step up all over again on Thursday evening if they are to come away with a result.
You can watch all every game from the 2019 Copa America Live & Exclusive on beIN CONNECT.