Should you’re watching the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship for nationwide groups in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, you in all probability did a double take after seeing Qatar in motion.
Qatar, in fact, performs within the Asian area and is the reigning Asian champion after successful that continental title in 2019. However because the tiny Persian Gulf nation (inhabitants close to three million) will get set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s attempting each method doable to get its nationwide crew one of the best competitors it will probably discover within the hope it will probably have a superb displaying subsequent yr.
The Qataris’ Gold Cup participation matches that plan.
MORE: Gold Cup standings and scores
How did the Qatar get into the Gold Cup?
The soccer governing our bodies within the Asian and CONCACAF areas formed a working strategic partnership in 2018 to assist the expansion of soccer in each elements of the world.
It was an settlement that contemplated aggressive alternatives, amongst different issues. The 2 areas have additionally dedicated to referee exchanges and sharing finest practices across the internet hosting of the World Cup. Qatar hosts the occasion in 2022, adopted by the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
As a part of that association, Qatar was invited to take part within the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cup tournaments. It will not damage that Qatar’s invitation has additionally led to Qatar Airways becoming a member of on as a multi-year tournament sponsor.
And it makes nice sense for the Qataris, who’ve been on a world tour in recent times as they get set to place their finest foot ahead as World Cup hosts.
Why is Qatar enjoying within the Gold Cup?
Qatar is critical about getting video games in opposition to high quality opponents.
As 2022 World Cup host, Qatar robotically earns a berth to the occasion, however it’s nonetheless enjoying in Asian World Cup qualifying matches since these video games additionally double as 2023 Asian championship qualifiers.
As well as, it’s taking part as a “shadow” crew in Group A of European World Cup qualifying, simply so it will probably get video games in opposition to European competitors. Qatar’s matches are thought-about friendlies and so they don’t depend in that group’s standings, however Qatar has fared properly thus far: beating each Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, and tying the Republic of Eire (highlights beneath) earlier this yr.
And this summer season, along with the Gold Cup, Qatar was scheduled to play within the South American championship for nationwide groups, the 2021 Copa America, however it withdrew earlier this yr as a consequence of an obvious scheduling battle. Qatar had already participated within the 2019 Copa America, the place it performed Paraguay (2-2 draw), Argentina (2-0 loss) and Colombia (1-0 loss) within the group stage.
Gold Cup visitor invitations not unprecedented
Particular visitor groups at worldwide competitions will not be a brand new apply in world soccer. CONMEBOL, the South American soccer physique, repeatedly invited Mexico to its Copa America and the USA participated within the Copa America in 1993, 1995, 2007 and 2016, advancing to the semis on two events (1995, 2016).
CONCACAF has invited groups up to now to assist enhance the extent of world-class competitors on the Gold Cup and supply high quality opposition for its groups, and it began with top-of-the-line on the market: Brazil bought an invitation to 3 Gold Cup tournaments in 1996 (second place), 1998 (third place) and 2003 (second place). Different Gold Cup invitees have included Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, South Africa and South Korea.
However with the standard of its nationwide groups enhancing significantly, CONCACAF moved away from the apply after 2005 and Qatar’s invitation has been the primary one since then.
Gold Cup all-time visitor groups
- 1996: Brazil
- 1998: Brazil
- 2000: Colombia, Peru, South Korea
- 2002: Ecuador, South Korea
- 2003: Brazil, Colombia
- 2005: South Africa, Colombia
Qatar’s schedule on the Gold Cup
Qatar, coached by Spaniard Felix Sanchez, will probably be enjoying its group stage matches in Houston in opposition to Panama (July 13), Grenada (July 17) and Honduras (July 20).
Qatar’s No. 58 world rating is the fifth-best within the 16-team Gold Cup. Its standout gamers embrace captain Hassan Al-Haydos (above), ahead Almoez Ali, who was high scorer on the 2019 Asian Championship, and up-and-coming winger Akram Afif.
There’s little question that Qatar, nonetheless unbeaten in 2021, may have ambitions to advance out of the group stage and maybe make a deep run. If Qatar can end as one of many high two groups from its group, it will advance to face a Group A opponent within the Gold Cup quarterfinals: one among Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala or Trinidad & Tobago. Qatar already beat El Salvador in a pleasant within the leadup to the Gold Cup.
It will in all probability be thought-about successful if the Asian champs can advance far sufficient to get a sport in opposition to regional powers Mexico or the USA, potential opponents on the 2022 World Cup. If the matches assist Qatar, they will even be helpful to the CONCACAF groups that may should face the Qataris down the road.