Qatar will be the host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will begin in the fall for the first time in tournament history. It will be the county’s first appearance in the World Cup, qualifying solely on the fact that it is the host nation. Like all host nationals in recent years, they were placed into Group A, featuring Senegal, Ecuador, and the Netherlands, playing their first World Cup game on November 21 against Ecuador. With FIFA ranking Qatar in 51st place, out of all national soccer teams, they enter their group as the lowest-ranked squad. However, soccer can be unpredictable, and Qatar will have a chance to make it out of their group, and here are five reasons why.
1. Every Game, They Have Home-Field Advantage
Though Qatar will technically not be the home team for every game, they might as well be because all the games will be within their country. With it being expensive to travel to see your national team play in the World Cup, it will be much cheaper for Qatar fans, who will likely be the highest-attending fans. Hearing your home fans, feeling the backing of a country, and a sense of nationhood can often drive a host team to overperform. South Africa in 2010 was the first host nation to not make it out of the group stage, narrowly being eliminated on goal difference. A big part of that is because, throughout World Cup history, many of the best teams have hosted the tournament. However, history is still on the side of the Qatar team to make it out of the group stage.
2. Group That Is Semi Up for Grabs
Qatar is the lowest-ranked team by FIFA in Group A, but Ecuador is not far behind at 46th overall. Ecuador did play well in qualifications, going 7-5-6, with a goal difference of eight goals. If Qatar makes it out of the group stage, this is a game they have to win. Senegal is ranked 20th by FIFA among all nations but first in Africa. The team is led by star forward Sadio Mane, who transferred from Liverpool to Bayern Munich. The team also features players who play in all across the top five leagues in Europe. Though The Netherlands missed the World Cup in 2018, they have slowly rebuilt their squad and are now ranked 10th in the world. The team has been on an unbeaten streak since June 27, 2021, as the team is having a resurgence heading into the 2022 World Cup. If Qatar manages to beat Ecuador on day one and can make it tough on both Senegal and the Netherlands, they may have a chance if the other teams struggle against one another.
3. Attacking Style of Soccer
Qatar is not highly ranked by FIFA, but their attack is the strongest aspect of the squad. This goes back to their manager Felix Sanchez, who was a manager for the Barcelona youth program from 1996-2006, coaching one of the best Spanish youth programs in the county’s generation that played a big part in winning the 2010 World Cup. He has been the manager for the Qatar senior squad since 2017, after working up the nation’s ranks since leaving Barcelona. He has been managing these players for a long time, installing his attacking, near Barcelona, style of thinking in them. During the 2021 FIFA ARAB Cup, Qatar came in third, winning all three group stage games with a five-goal difference. Qatar could surprise the better teams in their group if they can find a way to get on the counterattack.
4. Element of Surprise
The chances of Qatar making it out of the group stages are slim but not impossible. They are in a group with teams who are clear favorites, but often those teams struggle in the World Cup. Qatar is home, which gives them an added boost, along with their high-octane attack, which can capitalize on the team’s mistakes. If a team overlooked them, they could pull out a surprise victory or draw.
5. Group’s Favorites’ Inexperience
After being the runners-up in 2010, The Netherlands struggled in 2014, not making it out of the group stage, and in 2018 didn’t qualify. This is an entirely new team, and many have yet to appear in such a big event. Senegal is entering their third World Cup in the nation’s history and only made it out of the group stages once in 2002, and in 2018 placing third in their group. A lot has to go in Qatar’s favor, but the World Cup is where that can happen. Ecuador is only appearing in their fourth World Cup, not qualifying in 2018, and in 2014 not making it out of the group stage. Even though these teams have more experience than Qatar, it is not by much which levels out the playing field a little.