by Ahmed Hashim
Qatar national team coach Felix Sanchez believes Ireland, his side’s next opponent, will have extra motivation when they face off on Tuesday in Group A of the European qualifiers. Despite being a friendly match in essence, as Qatar is participating as a guest team, Ireland’s recent form means they will be looking to bounce back.
Ireland come into the fixture following a shock 1-0 defeat to Luxembourg, and haven’t won a game since November 2019. Meanwhile, Sanchez’s side defeated Luxembourg 1-0 and Azerbaijan 2-1 in their opening two clashes in Group A.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Sanchez spoke of Ireland’s strengths and their ‘extra motivation.’
“Every team we played so far showed they have top quality,” said the coach. “This is going to be a different opponent with different strengths. We know that they lost some points in the last games, but for sure, this is going to give them extra motivation to play this game (against Qatar). We are going to try hard to face this team – they have good organisation, fast rhythm, and we have to try to manage these kinds of situations. Hopefully we can play a good game tomorrow.”
He added: “Of course, almost all the players are playing in the Premier League and Championship, this shows the high quality they have. They are playing in one of the strongest leagues in the world. So we know that they have a certain way to play. We are going to try to play our game and we hope we can neutralise all their strengths to avoid difficult situations in the last third. This is a team that’s quite good in wide situations, with crosses and players arriving in the box.”
“They have very fast players, and very fast transitions, we are going to try to deal with this. We know that it is a difficult game but every game we play in the European qualifiers will be like that, so we need to adapt quickly and also be able to play our game.”
Asked about his lineup for the game, Sanchez said: “We are playing every three days. Yesterday we had a recovery session and some of the players who didn’t play, they trained. Today we have a session for all the players together; we have something in mind, but we need to see how the players respond in training. So far we have no injuries, we hope we will be able to choose the starting lineup that we have in mind but obviously, still we don’t know.”
Meanwhile, star striker Almoez Ali was asked about his absence from the scoresheet in the last two games, and the Asian Cup top scorer and MVP replied: “Of course, I try to score but the most important thing is the team and I will try to help the team. We are here to perform well to raise the name of Qatar. If I am able to score, I will do it to help my team to win.”
“I don’t think my defensive duties are affecting my scoring. I am a striker and I am the first point of defence and I have to start pressing the opponent. I am not defending more than necessary. We are creating chances. The most important thing is for the team to score. If I get a chance in the next game, I will try to score with it.”
Almoez was also asked about Qatar’s team spirit.
“The fundamental factor for us is to have a fighting spirit throughout the 90 minutes,” said the Al Duhail striker. “We are in a new competition. The coach is giving opportunities to every player and each player should give his all and show enough spirit so that we can win. Spirit and good performance are the secret of our success until now. Fighting spirit is the most important thing in modern football.”
The game is set to kick off at 9:45 PM (Doha time) on Tuesday.