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FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Can the hosts reach the knockout stages?
sokapro-FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Can the hosts reach the knockout stages?

Although Qatar are hosting the continental showpiece event, they are considered by many to be underdogs who only qualified by virtue of being the hosts.

After more than a decade since they were granted the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the wait is almost over. It is just a matter of time before Qatar hosts the first ever World Cup to be staged in the Middles East. The country is buzzing with anticipation. The hosting of the tournament has already been beneficial for the growth of the Middle East nation. The focus now shifts to how the Qatar national football team will perform in the event slated to take place between November 21st and December 18th. 

Although the nation came close to qualifying for the Global showpiece in Russia 2018, this is the first time that the nation is participating in the World Cup by virtue of being the host nation. A dominant Asian Cup victory in 2019 saw them win all seven games in their campaign and only concede one goal, beating fellow World Cup qualifiers Japan 3-1 in the final. Expectations at home are high. This is an indication that other teams should not take them lightly. "They won the Asian Cup. They also came third at the Arab Cup as well," explained Aaron Fernandez, fan leader for Qatar at ‘Road to 2022". He added; "Now, being the host nation for this FIFA World Cup, I'm sure they have the advantage of the home fans. The pitches over here and the preparations for the tournament have been brilliant. And with this young squad they have, I think they'll go on to the later stages of the tournament." 

If Qatar is to make it to the group stages, they will have to go passed 3 nations from 3 continents. The Netherlands, appearing in a World Cup for the first time since 2014, will provide a stern test for the hosts. Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, and Frenki de Jong will all be making their first appearance at the global showpiece event. The African champions Senegal will also pose a challenge to the host nation. Some consider them a dark horse for this tournament because they have players from some of Europe's top leagues. They boast of Sadio Mane and Koulidou Koulibaly. Mane is undisputedly the star of the team. 

The final member that Qatar will face in their group stage will be Ecuador who have reached the group of 16 elimination stage at their best in the German 2006 edition. They have some promising young talents in their team such as Moises Caicedo. However, the route to Lusail for the final might be tricky for Qatar, should they make it through the group stages. They'll be up against a team from Group B in the round of 16, which could be Gareth Southgate's England. Beyond the first knockout round, there's a good chance they could be playing the reigning world champions France and possibly Brazil in the semi-finals. 

Led by Spanish manager Felix Sanchez, Qatar has some talented players they can pin their hopes on for some magic in the make-or-break group games. They often play the 3-5-2 formation to utilise the talented defensive players Pedro Miguel and Abdelkarim Hassam, captain and legend Hassan Al-Haydos, to pack the midfield and win the ball back quickly. Up front, they have their star player Akram Afif, who has scored 24 goals in 83 appearances for his country. Many people would think Qatar's chances depend on them winning their opening match against Ecuador. Whatever happens, the nation is prepared to host the world competition, and there is a good likelihood that the players will honour their country.