DOHA, Qatar (AP) – There are good chances for the World Cup it will only get worse for Team Qatar if the players don’t manage their nerves when they face African champions Senegal in their second group match.
Qatar are now the first hosts to lose their World Cup opener after being thrashed at their nation’s biggest sporting event in a 2-0 defeat by Ecuador in Group A on Sunday.
This puts them in danger of becoming only the second host, after South Africa in 2010, to be eliminated in the group stage.
But what about losing every game? Or the bleak prospect of failing to score at their home World Cup?
This is likely to garner even more criticism over FIFA’s decision to award the World Cup to the small but very wealthy Gulf emirate, which had never qualified for the game’s biggest tournament before winning the right to host it 12 years ago.
“Maybe we felt a little overwhelmed by the responsibility. We were also nervous,” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said. “Hopefully we will be under less pressure (against Senegal) and be able to approach the game in a more competitive way. I think that’s something we can work towards.”
Qatar’s next chance to show they deserve a place on the World Cup pitch comes on Friday against Senegal, a team that still boasts a range of players from the top leagues in England, Spain, Italy and France, even missing injured striker Sadio Mane.
“We have a lot of room for improvement,” Sanchez said after his players froze in the glare of global scrutiny against Ecuador.
Qatar may be the 2019 Asian champions, but every member of the squad plays for a local club at home in an indication perhaps of the difference between them and the standard required at a World Cup.
Qatar’s struggles also stand out after other teams from Arab countries felt more at home at the first World Cup in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s colossal upset defeat by Argentina was followed by impressive performances from Tunisia and Morocco in the first week of the tournament.
Senegal also fell to an opening loss at the World Cup but troubled a strong Netherlands side before second-half injuries to midfielder Sheikhou Kouyate and defender Abdou Diallo disrupted the West Africans’ rhythm and the Dutch capitalized to score two late goals.
Kouyate is likely out for the Qatar match, but Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said the focus for his team is up front, where there are high expectations for a new frontline combination of Ismaila Sarr, Boulaye Dia and Crepin Diata.
They didn’t fare well in their first game together after Mane was ruled out, but if they do it against Qatar as Cisse expects, it could be another long day at the World Cup for the hosts.
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