Crashing World Cup knockout for hosts: Qatar's billion-euro project sinks into the Persian Gulf

Three games, three defeats, conceded seven goals and scored just one: the Qatari national soccer team went under completely at the home World Cup.

Crashing World Cup knockout for hosts: Qatar's billion-euro project sinks into the Persian Gulf

Three games, three defeats, conceded seven goals and scored just one: the Qatari national soccer team went under completely at the home World Cup. Felix Sanchez's team had already lost the support of the fans in the first game against Ecuador.

The enthusiastic FIFA boss Gianni Infantino also turned away from the Qatar national team. We don't know exactly when the Swiss left Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday night, but he turned up at the Khalifa International Stadium for the second half to watch the more exciting group final between Ecuador and Senegal. One may accuse this almighty of the world association, who always throws himself protectively in front of the host like a fighting mother lion when criticism of Qatar is too loud and vehement, to be immoral, but in this specific case there is probably a very banal explanation behind the premature departure: Infantino uses the short distances in the emirate to be seen everywhere.

What might have been more frightening for the hosts and FIFA: in the middle of the second half, the arena, which was modeled on a Bedouin tent, emptied massively. In the radio report, they said that two-thirds of the grandstands had been emptied well before the final whistle. again. Because even in the opening game between Ecuador and Qatar, it quickly became empty in the round. At that time, i.e. on November 20th, the reason given was that many visitors wanted to avoid the traffic chaos around the stadium. But the truth probably lies elsewhere. The host's team does not cause any enthusiasm in the country, unlike a Cristiano Ronaldo. Only the approximately 1,500 mysterious Ultras stayed and celebrated. But well, they were apparently also bought for that.

And money is a good transition back to the national team. A massive amount has been put into football itself and into building a competitive team from the very wealthy emirate. With investments worth billions, new stadiums were built in the desert and the infrastructure was improved. All for the goal of serving the world a unique festival of football. And at least take on a serious sporting role in the field of the best. And the triumph at the Asian Cup in early February 2019, in which Japan was defeated (3-1) in the final, had raised faint hopes that the selection in front of a home crowd could set one or the other exclamation mark. And indeed there is one thing - behind the realization that no host has ever done worse.

No, they hadn't imagined it that way. And so after the final 0:2 against the Netherlands many things are open. For example, the future of the Catalan coach Felix Sanchez, who has been working in the emirate for 16 years. "As far as my future is concerned, I'm not sure. My plans were based on tonight's game against the Netherlands. I have to reflect and think. We haven't talked about what's going to happen now," said the 46-year-old on the night to Wednesday. The former youth coach of FC Barcelona started at the Aspire Academy, which had cost 750 million euros and where the foundation for the future of national football was laid in 2004 with the know-how of international scientists and coaches, and rose after stations U-teams 2017 to the national coach.

In order to take the players to a higher, European level, the Aspire Zone Foundation, which runs the academy, later (2012) bought the Belgian club KAS Eupen. Footballers from the emirate are regularly deployed there. As reported by "Sport Bild", seven current national players were already under contract in the Belgian provinces. Among others, left winger Akram Afif, who with a market value of four million euros is by far the most valuable player in Qatari football. And at home he was primarily geared towards the needs of coach Sanchez. During the preparations, interruptions in game operations meant that he was able to pull his players together again and again for longer training camps. That didn't work. In contrast to the 2015 home handball championship, Qatar even reached the final with a team bought together, flanked by numerous controversial referee decisions. France, however, prevented the really big coup in the final.

However, there is one difference to the football team: unlike in handball, a national team can no longer be changed if you have already gained experience in competitive games in the men's division. In handball, on the other hand, things work like this: It is possible for players to change countries if they were on duty for the current team three years ago and the player has lived in their new home for at least two years. Success at major sporting events is relevant to the emirate's sportswashing; more and more major events have been held there in recent years, including the 2019 World Athletics Championships. Formula 1 is now also a popular guest in Doha. However, football still has a long way to go.

However, Sanchez is not worried about the future of the team. "The good thing about the Qatar national team is that we have a long-term plan that doesn't depend on me." The critical voices about the early knockout However, the coach could not understand either. "For a country with only 6,000 licensed players, that was an expected scenario," Sanchez said. "We had two good games against Senegal and the Netherlands. We weren't at our usual level in our first game. We're very realistic about what we can achieve." His players, he found, had always "hanged in".

One could obviously not expect more, more had not been expected. The journalist Mohamed Eltayeb had described the situation in the country to "Sport Bild" before the World Cup. "The fans' expectations of the team are not very high," said the man who follows the team for the "Doha News". Such a crashing knockout in the actually not easy group with the Netherlands, with Ecuador and Senegal he didn't see it coming either. "The players are young and hungry. And have surprised some football greats in the past." However, that didn't work out on the world stage.