Qatar draw line under disappointing World Cup show to begin new era under Carlos Queiroz

New coach tells 'The National' team's focus is now on winning another Asian Cup

Carlos Quieroz has taken over from Felix Sanchez as manager of Qatar as they prepare to host the Asian Cup. EPA
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Carlos Queiroz has drawn a line under Qatar’s 2022 World Cup campaign, saying the team have entered a “new era” with the goal to make the country proud at next year’s Asian Cup.

Qatar, the defending champions, will host the continent’s showpiece for the third time and first since 2011, when it stages the 24-team tournament from January 12 to February 10. The competition was initially scheduled for China this summer.

Qatar, who secured the trophy for the first time four years ago in Abu Dhabi, are undergoing a period of significant transition, with Queiroz appointed in February as successor to long-term manager Felix Sanchez.

Sanchez, who had been involved with the national set-up since 2013, departed in December after the World Cup in Qatar, in which the home side lost all three matches to exit at the group stage. The Middle East’s first World Cup hosts, Qatar were also making their first appearance at a global finals.

“We are in one special moment because looking back a little bit, we’ve just finished the World Cup, and it was a little below the high expectations,” Queiroz, who managed Iran at the November-December finals, told The National.

“So we have now one mission, which is to get back to normality and put things in the right way and make our team, our players and our fans understand that now we go for one competition level that is our world. We cannot challenge international football if we’re not the best in Asia.

“So this is exactly what I want: to create this concept of the players and all the team to understand that in football there is one journey. And the journey starts when you start to play against yourself.

“And step by step, when we start to become more solid, we can extend our ideas. That’s my technical approach with them right now.”

Asked how the mood is within the camp following the World Cup, Queiroz said: “What is this? I put a line now and there is nothing behind. This is a new era.”

For the Asian Cup, Qatar have been placed in Group A alongside against China, Tajikistan and Lebanon. They kick off their title defence against Lebanon on January 12 at Al Bayt Stadium.

Queiroz, who led three-time winners Iran to the quarter-finals in 2015 and then to the semi-finals four years ago, said: “The first game is important not only for us, it’s for everybody in a short competition of four teams – the first game a lot of times dictates what will happen in the group. But it happens also sometimes that even the team that lose the first game became champions at the end.

“What is important is not only to know how to play, but to be ready to rebound from all and everything. Success is not a straight line in football; it is a line that will go up and down. In this kind of competition, you have to have a concrete stomach.

“Now the most important thing is the next step, how we’re going to be prepared, how we’re going to be ready to compete against beautiful players, wonderful teams, the best in Asia.

“Because it will be hard. It will be a tough competition, but the most important thing is in the end to play good football, have a lot of fun, and bring as much pride and honour for the country.”

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On the expectation of performing well as the host nation, Queiroz said: “It is another responsibility, but football without responsibility and pressure doesn’t exist.

“So we love that. We’re going to be prepared for that, build up a special programme. Because, as I said, be ready at the right time it is the key word.”

Queiroz, who first competitive matches in charge will come at next month's Concacaf Gold Cup, said the team would give everything to successfully defend their Asian crown.

“It will be an honour to have that privilege,” he said. “We are proud of what the team did, but that is not enough. Now it is our duty to make them also proud of our work and be sure that, when Asian Cup finishes, all the people in Qatar are happy and they are proud of us.”

Updated: May 24, 2023, 2:36 AM