Doha // Qatar coach Jose Daniel Carreno insisted his unbeaten team were “a long way” from reaching the 2018 World Cup finals as they flew to Bhutan Sunday for their latest Asian zone qualifier.
Carreno’s side have won all five of their Group C matches so far and need -- at most -- six more points from their remaining three games to progress to the next stage of the qualification.
Three of those points should come against bottom-placed Bhutan on Tuesday after Qatar crushed the makeweights 15-0 in Doha in September, a record victory for the Gulf nation.
At the same time as Qatar are in Bhutan their two main rivals in the group, Hong Kong and China, meet each other in a potentially highly-charged encounter.
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Carreno says he wants a draw in that game and if his wish is granted, and his team beat Bhutan, they will have officially progressed to the next stage of Asian zone qualifiers, where the region’s top 12 teams compete for four spots in Russia in 2018.
But Uruguayan Carreno refuses to get carried away.
“We are on the right track. However, right now we haven’t won anything,” he said. “When it comes to playing in the World Cup, we are still a long way from it.”
He also insisted that Tuesday’s match in the Bhutan capital of Thimpu, being played at altitude and on an artificial pitch, was no means a guaranteed three points for Qatar.
“We cannot say what the result will be. Football is full of surprises. Our main aim is to get three points.
“This match is going to be quite different from the first one,” he said at a press conference before the team left Qatar.
“We are going to play at high altitude, we are not used to playing on an artificial pitch, so we are not used to playing in such an environment.
“There are many factors which we will have to conquer to win.”
Despite Carreno’s caution, Qatar’s dominance has led to growing hopes in Doha that the controversial 2022 World Cup hosts can prove its footballing pedigree and qualify for Russia in three years’ time.
Senior World Cup officials in Qatar have told AFP it is “important” that the national team reaches the sport’s biggest stage for the first time before hosting.
These hopes may have been tempered by Qatar’s 2-1 home defeat to Turkey in a friendly on Friday.
However, if they do qualify, Qatar will have avoided becoming the first team since Italy in 1934 to host the tournament without playing in it previously.
And despite their flawless qualifying record so this time round, Carreno knows Qatari football officials can be ruthless in trying to get what they want.
He is the national side’s 14th coach in the last 16 years but shrugs off the pressure even if he admits it might not be good for his complexion.
“In the last six months, despite all the good results, all the pressure has made me look a bit older,” the 52-year-old told AFP.
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