Doha, 30 November 2021 - Hopes are high for the Qatar national team heading into the FIFA Arab Cup™, which gets underway on Tuesday 30 November. Ahead of the tournament, Qatar2022.qa spoke to three local football legends to discuss the host nation’s chances heading into the event. Set to run until 18 December, the tournament is seen as a golden opportunity to finetune preparations for next year’s FIFA World Cup™.
For Qatar Legacy Ambassadors Ibrahim Khalfan, Khalid Salman and Ahmed Khalil, the FIFA Arab Cup™ is yet another important milestone for the Qatar national team, and comes at the tail end of a series of major tests for the Maroons, including competing in the Copa America, CONCACAF Gold Cup and UEFA World Cup qualifying. According to Khalfan, who starred for Qatar during the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship, the Arab Cup is a chance to build on the AFC Asian Cup title, which Qatar claimed for the first time in 2019.
He said: “Our national team has been preparing very well for the World Cup, and this tournament will be proof that our Asian championship run was a sign of great things to come. We will be facing some difficult teams but Qatar’s attacking style of football will be tough to match for other nations.”
Qatar has been drawn in Group A at the FIFA Arab Cup™ against Gulf rivals Oman, current Arabian Gulf champions Bahrain and former Asian champions Iraq. The Qataris will kick off their campaign on 30 November against Bahrain at the stunning Al Bayt Stadium.
“We have a tremendous selection of players that have proven over the past few years that they are able to play against the best in the world,” said Salman, who scored a hat-trick against Brazil during the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship.
“Whether it was in the Asian Cup in 2019 – when our team dominated the competition, going undefeated and conceding only one goal, or against competition at the Copa America and the Gold Cup – we have proven over and over again that we are a team that needs to be respected.”
Qatar has also taken part in European World Cup qualification as a guest participant alongside strong nations such as Portugal and Serbia. These matches are part of a concerted effort to prepare the team for the World Cup, which will kick off at Al Bayt Stadium on 21 November next year.
“For me, the Arab Cup is not only a great opportunity for Qatari players to go out there and play competitive football ahead of Qatar 2022, but it will also be a special moment for all of the region to celebrate Qatar’s preparedness to welcome the entire world in just under a year’s time, and what better way to do it than a tournament that brings all Arabs together,” said Ahmed Khalil, who played as a goalkeeper for Qatar during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
The FIFA Arab Cup™ will be played in six Qatar 2022 stadiums, including Al Bayt and Stadium 974, which will host matches for the first time during the tournament.