By Nick Said
DOHA (Reuters) – As the home fans streamed out of the ground in the final few minutes of Qatar’s 3-1 loss to Senegal on Friday it was symbolic of the lack of fighting spirit shown by their side at the Al Thumama Stadium and a resignation that defeat was looming.
The hosts, and current Asian champions, are on the brink of early elimination from their own World Cup, which will be confirmed later on Friday if the Netherlands defeat Ecuador in their Group A match, or that game ends in a draw.
Qatar appear set to join South Africa as the only host country to have exited in the group stages but, on the evidence of their losses to Ecuador and Senegal, they can have little argument that they deserve more.
With the Dutch to come in their final group game on Tuesday, they needed a win against Senegal but from the first whistle there seemed little in the way of attacking intent.
Qatar again selected five in defence with Assim Madibo a shield for the three centre-backs that was intended to allow their full backs to venture forward, but they rarely did.
It was an issue in their opening 2-0 loss to Ecuador that Qatar coach Felix Sanchez tried to fix. But their shortcomings were seemingly not organisational, but rather mental.
Too timid on the ball, no pressing of their opponents, no adventure from any Qatari player on the pitch bar the excellent left-winger Akram Afif, who offered a lone threat and might well have been rewarded with a penalty in the first half when he was bundled over by Ismaila Sarr.
On the rare occasions Qatar did mount attacks at 2-0 down, they created chances, with Ghana-born forward Mohammed Muntari scoring the country’s first ever World Cup goal that proved a consolation only.
But over the 90 minutes they invited Senegal onto them instead of trying to impose themselves on the game. They needed to be braver and show more belief in themselves.
The west Africans were far from perfect but it was made easy for them because there was no pressure on the ball and the defensive mindset of the home side played into their hands.
How Qatar approach their final game against Netherlands will be telling – will it be a case of going out in a blaze of glory, or with a whimper?
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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Source: The Print