Qatar is staging the first-ever Winter World Cup, the time of year that is classed as mid-season for most big leagues worldwide, especially in Europe. The host nation is in Group A and will face the Netherlands, Senegal, and Ecuador. Qatar must finish in the top two in order to progress to the last 16.
On the pitch, results count, but off it, the World Cup represents a chance for the nation of Qatar to showcase the country to the world. Nassar Al-Khater is the Chief Executive Officer of the FIFA World Cup and feels that visitors will not only be amazed by the football and the stadiums. In Doha, travelling fans can expect to discover Qatar’s history, entertainment, and a warm welcome. He told Football Now, “They can expect nice beaches, great food, a lot of entertainment. I know there are a lot of apprehensions, but Qatar is the safest country in the Middle East. It is the second safest in the world. People will feel very safe and comfortable here. We welcome all the fans. We want them to get excited about the World Cup, and we look forward to seeing them here.”
For the host nation, the task is clear, and manager Felix Sanchez is a 46-year-old who knows the country – and its football teams well. The Spaniard first came to Qatar in 2006, joining Aspire Academy. Over the years, he’s held positions with the Under 19’s and Under 23’s before taking over the national team in 2017. Since then, he’s led the team to the Asian Cup in 2019 and third place in the Arab Cup in December 2021. He has worked with the squad in a variety of age groups, and he has a lasting relationship with many of them. He hopes this bond will make the squad stronger when the tournament begins.
“It’s been an amazing journey for me. It’s always nice to see players that you met when they were 11 or 12 years old and now they are playing in the national team. So, you know, all the effort and all the training, all the sacrifices, all the wins and defeats were worth it. However, they need to keep working and improving, especially for the 2022 World Cup.”metasports
Former Dutch international Ronald de Boer believes van Gaal has plenty of talent at his disposal to make an impact in Qatar. He told Football Now.
“I think Holland is a team the world looks forward to seeing. They play exciting football. So people, even if they are not Dutch, they like to see the Dutch play. And also the Dutch fans who always come. You see them, you hear them, they are great fun to be around, so it’s fun for them. And it’s also going to be a great experience here in Qatar.”