Qatar World Cup 2022 squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

As World Cup hosts, Qatar face the biggest moment in their football history

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Amid the scrutiny of Qatar over their human rights record, the treatment of migrant workers and its oppresssive LGBTQ+ laws, its football team has quietly flown under the radar ahead of the most controversial World Cup in history. That will not be the case for much longer, as Qatar faces up to the reality of becoming the first country to make its debut at a World Cup as hosts, and following 12 years of preparation for the very moment of opening the tournament against Ecuador.

Has the host country of the World Cup ever had more attention, while receiving so little for its team? Perhaps Russia four years ago also came into the World Cup with more of a focus on off-field concerns, only to surprise everyone by reaching the quarter-finals. Qatar, meanwhile, cannot possibly begin to imagine such a tournament. For the country ranked 50th in the world, a single victory in Group A would constitute a success, even an entirely sports-washed one.

Run your finger through Qatar’s World Cup squad and even the most studious of football fans will be unable to find a single household name. There has been, though, an impact left on the world of football ahead of the World Cup, following their surprise victory at the 2019 Asia Cup and Qatar’s first continental title. It was a tournament won by beating South Korea and then Japan 3-1 in the final and although Qatar’s results since have been poor, it is evidence that there may be a team there after all.

Qatar’s 2019 Asia Cup victory was their first major title

Qatar have almost played as a club side over the past 12 months. Their entire squad plays for Qatari teams and it has allowed the country to play numerous friendly matches in preparation. This is a team that also has been together for a long time and the core of Qatar’s first-team have passed or are nearing 100 international caps. Their playing style is settled too. Qatar will be defensive, obdurate, with five defenders at the back and hopes pinned on Almoez Ali and Akram Afif in attack. It is unlikely to be enough, but you also suspect the success of the World Cup to Qatar will not be down to its team.

Here is everything you need to know:

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Group fixtures (all times GMT)

Sunday 20 November: Qatar vs Ecuador – 16:00

Friday 25 November: Qatar vs Senegal – 13:00

Tuesday 29 November: Netherlands vs Qatar – 15:00

Confirmed squad

Goalkeepers: Saad Al-Sheeb (Al-Sadd), Meshaal Barsham (Al-Sadd), Yousef Hassan (Al-Gharafa)

Defenders: Pedro Miguel (Al-Sadd), Musaab Khidir (Al-Sadd), Tarek Salman (Al-Sadd), Bassam Al-Rawi (Al-Duhail), Boualem Khoukhi (Al-Sadd), Abdelkarim Hassan (Al-Sadd), Ismaeel Mohammad (Al-Duhail), Homam Ahmed (Al-Gharafa), Jassem Gaber (Al-Arabi)

Midfielders: Ali Asad (Al-Sadd), Assim Modibo (Al-Duhail), Mohammed Waad (Al-Sadd), Salem Al-Hajri (Al-Sadd), Moustafa Tarek (Al-Sadd), Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Abdelaziz Hatim (Al-Rayyan)

Forwards: Naif Alhadhrami (Al-Rayyan), Ahmed Alaaeldin (Al-Gharafa), Hassan Al-Haydos (Al-Sadd), Khalid Muneer (Al-Wakrah), Akram Afif (Al-Sadd), Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail), Mohamed Muntari (Al-Duhail)

Ones to watch

Star – Almoez Ali: The striker scored nine goals and was named player of the tournament as Qatar won the Asia Cup in 2019, including a spectacular overhead kick in the final against Japan. Born in Sudan, he was the centre of controversy before the match when the United Emirates FA launched a protest of his eligibility to represent Qatar, only for it to be dismissed by the Asian Football Confederation before kick-off. Three years later, he is closing in on the all-time goalscoring record for Qatar and carries much of their hopes ahead of the World Cup.

Ali and Afif form a key strike partnership for Qatar

Breakout talent – Akram Afif: The attacking midfielder is one of the few players in the Qatar squad to have played in Europe, with time spent at Sevilla and Villarreal’s academies helping to develop a skillful dribbler whose flair and creativity will be key for the hosts. Afif was named Asian player of the year in 2019 following a return to Qatar, after seasons spent at Belgian side Eupen and Sporting Gijon. In his partnership with Ali, the roles are set: Ali scores the goals but Afif creates them, and Qatar will rely upon his spark just as much.

Odds to win the World Cup (taken from Betfair)

500/1

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Prediction

It’s hard to see Qatar getting anything out of their three group games. Manager Felix Sanchez believes that a defensive approach gives the hosts the best chance of doing that, but they could be quickly found out. Knocked out in the group stages.

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