"Playing in Europe will give us the chance to gain experience"
The president of the Qatar Football Federation, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, has welcomed UEFA's invitation to play World Cup qualifiers.
UEFA’s decision to invite host nation Qatar to participate in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup has been welcomed by the president of the Qatar Football Association (QFA), Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, as the perfect opportunity for The Maroons to gain competitive experience ahead of the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East in two years’ time.
Qatar’s presence in the European qualifiers was confirmed after discussions and coordination between the QFA and UEFA with the objective of providing the hosts with the best possible preparation for the World Cup, where Félix Sánchez’s side will represent Qatar for the first time in the nation’s history. The Maroons were paired with Portugal, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in Group A.
As a guest nation, games between the European sides and Qatar will be classed as friendlies and will not be played for points as Sánchez’s side have qualified for the finals as hosts. Qatar’s first game in Group A is against Luxembourg on 24 March, 2021.
QFA President Sheikh Al Thani expressed his pleasure at the decision and noted it will provide Sánchez and his side with the perfect opportunity to gain more experience ahead of the World Cup against teams of the calibre of Portugal, the reigning European champions and UEFA Nations League title-holders, and the other sides in the group. The last time Qatar played a UEFA side was in a 2-2 friendly draw against Iceland in Belgium in November 2018.
“The Qatar national team has achieved some notable successes in recent years, among them winning the Asian Cup for the first time in our history in 2019, but our objective is to keep moving forward and look for ways to improve the performance levels of our national team ahead of our participation in the first World Cup in the Middle East and the region,” Sheikh Al Thani said.
Qatar played at the 2019 Copa América in Brazil as a guest nation and are scheduled to play at the next edition of the tournament in Colombia and Argentina in 2021, as well as at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Qatar’s involvement in both tournaments is an important part of the side’s preparations for the World Cup as it will allow Sánchez and his players to test themselves against some of the most experienced sides in the world ahead of the 2022 competition on home soil, where The Maroons are scheduled to kick-off in the inaugural game on 21 November, 2022, in the Al Bayt Stadium.