Doha: Qatar will hope to maintain their form when they take on Iraq in the opening match of 24th Arab Gulf Cup here at the Khalifa International Stadium on Tuesday.
This is the fourth time that the tournament is being hosted in Doha after 1976, 1992 and 2004, with Qatar winning it twice (1992 & 2004).
“Looking forward to start the competition as a part of our 2022 World Cup preparations,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez at the pre-match press conference on Monday.
Qatar in good form
The reigning AFC Asian Cup champions have been in good form in the World Cup qualifiers where they are currently top Group E. Though the team struggled in their 1-0 over Afghanistan on November 19, Sanchez exuded confidence.
“We had a good preparation after we came back from Dushanbe in Tajikstan. The boys are in a good frame of mind. We want to go for a push in this tournament,” said the Spaniard. “Playing in Doha is important. The support of the fans will motivate us.”
Asked whether Qatar would be under pressure, Sanchez said, “It’s good to play under pressure like what we did at the AFC Asian Cup and Copa America. We’ve to deal with each game separately.”
The three-time champions will also be hoping to end the year on a high note by winning the regional competition. But Sanchez is aware of the challenges as the hosts are clubbed with Iraq, UAE and Yemen.
“Our aim is to advance from game to game. UAE and Iraq are difficult sides. We’ve have to play really well,” added Sanchez.
“We had played the UAE in the Asian Cup. We had a good result against them. But the Gulf Cup is a new tournament. If we’ve to progress to the knock-out stage, we must play with a positive frame of mind.”
Opening game will not be easy: Al Haidous
Qatar captain Hassan Al Haidous said that the opening match in any tournament will always be a difficult one.
“Iraq are a good side. It’s going to be a tough match,” said Al Haidous.
But the Al Sadd striker also added, “Gulf Cup has a special flavour. We want to make our people happy with another great victory as we did at the Asian Cup in January.”
The kickoff is at 7.30pm (local time).
Squad: Saad al-Sheeb, Pedro, Salem al-Hajri, Tariq Salman, Abdulkarim Hassan, Boualem Khoukhi, Hassan al-Haydos, Akram Afif, Bassam al-Rawi, Almoez Ali, Karim Boudiaf, Ismail Hamad, Mohamed Montari, Ahmed Fathi, Mohamed Salah, Fahd Shanin, Youssef Abdel Razzaq, Musab Khader, Abdul Aziz Hatem, Fahd Younis, Mahdi Ali, Abdullah Abdul Salam, Mohamed Bakri.