After failing to qualify for the European Championships and a dismal run of form, the Republic of Ireland are in dire need of a victory in the near future. Stephen Kenny and his men are winless in their last nine matches but have a decent run of fixtures, including the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign and a friendly match against the next hosts of the tournament, Qatar.
Qatar are building their preparations gradually for the biggest two-year spell for football in their country. The Arabic nation will of course stage the 2022 World Cup after winning the bid 10 years ago, beating out the United States among others for the hosting rights.
As a result of their hosting duties, manager Felix Sanchez Bas is aiming to build his side into form ahead of the tournament. Though, there are other challenges ahead for Qatar, namely the Copa America, which will take place this summer. The competition has been expanded to allow Qatar and Australia to enter.
The football odds from Betfair do not paint a positive picture of their prospects, being backed at 100/1 to win the competition. However, it could be all worth it in the long run if it prepares the team for the rigours of the World Cup. Playing Kenny’s men will also be vital preparation – not only for the Copa America, but to witness a different style of football compared to what the Arabic nation see on a regular basis. It will also benefit Ireland but they cannot afford to take Qatar for granted, considering their own form and the Arabic’s side’s recent triumph in the 2019 Asian Cup.
Qatar are not blessed with outstanding individual talent, but their squad is stacked with experience, especially in the final third. Captain Hassan Al-Haydos has 135 appearances to his name and 28 goals. The 30-year-old has played at Al-Sadd for the entirety of his career and has been decent in front of goal. His best moment for Qatar came against South Korea in their World Cup qualifying clash in 2018, notching a brace in a 3-2 victory. Almoez Ali is a dangerous player in the final third and will be pinpointed by Kenny as Qatar’s biggest threat. The 24-year-old has notched 29 goals for his country in only 61 appearances. He has the propensity for performing in big matches, leading the goal charts in the Asian Cup with nine strikes to his name. Ali is a very exciting prospect. Sanchez Bas will have high hopes for the forward over the next two years.
Qatar possess two solid midfield players in the form of Karim Boudiaf and Abdulaziz Hatem. Both men are 30 and are at the stage of their careers where they know their games inside and out. They are no world-beaters but are solid professionals that are the heartbeat of any team. Abdelkarim Hassan, Ro-Ro, Boualem Khoukhi and Tarek Salman provide the depth in the rearguard. A 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Ghana ended Saad Al Sheeb’s tenure between the posts for Sanchez Bas, leaving Qatar with inexperienced keepers in their ranks. Al Sheeb could return to the ranks in the future for the Asian Cup qualifiers and the Copa America, though.
There’s enough talent in the Qatari ranks and a cohesive team to give Ireland problems. If Kenny doesn’t deliver an expected win against Qatar it will turn up the pressure another notch.
Words: Jay Kabiru