18 Jul 2017 - 1:42
Qatar Olympic squad ready for Asian challenge at home
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
Hosts Qatar have overcome training challenges with courage and are well prepared for this week’s AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifying matches, team coach Felix Sanchez said as the home team gets ready for their opening game tomorrow.
Qatar face Turkmenistan in their first match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium and coach Sanchez said his young boys have shown positive energy in the build-up of the four-team event which will conclude on July 23.
India and Syria are the other two sides besides Turkmenistan and hosts Qatar.
“We started our preparations on June 5 in Doha and since then we have played eight friendlies. Although things were not easy because of the hot weather but the players have shown good energy level in the matches,” Sanchez said.
“We tried to get the boys ready by playing different combinations (during the friendlies),” Sanchez added in a statement. “We know we will have little rest ahead of our games but that applies to all teams,” he added.
Qatar will take on India on July 21 followed by their final clash against Syria on July 23. All matches will be played at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium which has state-of-the art cooling technology.
Sanchez said the morale of the boys was ‘high’.
“The players are ready and they are looking forward to the first game. Our goal is to provide the best, to be among the sixteen teams locked in the Asian Cup finals (to be held in China),” Sanchez said.
“Our players have the experience of competing in such competitions that are held in a short period of time. So they are required to avoid making mistakes and show better focus,” the coach said.
He added all the players who were in the preliminary list got the opportunity during the practice games saying he would choose the best ones for the home event.
The Qatar Olympic squad appeared in a three-nation friendly tournament a little over two weeks ago. Teams from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan featured in the three-nation tourney.
Al Anabi have been boosted by the presence of Akram Afif, a team official said earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, India arrive in Doha having played two friendlies against Singapore. India drew one game and lost the second.
India coach Stephen Constantine said: “I am disappointed with the result. I thought the boys fought very hard but we lacked a bit of quality in the final third and it cost us in the end.
“However, I can say that we didn’t deserve to lose the game. The objective is to find players for the senior team and there are certainly some players who if they continue in the manner they are doing now have a serious chance to push for the senior national team,” he stated.
“It’s been two weeks that we have been together and the U-23 boys needed competitive games. The tour to Singapore was a valuable experience for the squad to gauge the intensity of international encounters. I thank AIFF for arranging the matches ahead of our AFC Qualifiers.”
Constantine added: “The games were competitive and provided us the much needed exposure.”
It has been under Constantine’s coaching that the senior national team has jumped 73 places in the FIFA Rankings to be currently placed at 100 spot.
In a news report last week, Constantine said there is “no room for complacency.”
“We will not be complacent,” Constantine said. “In fact, we can’t afford it,” he added.