Doha, Qatar: Lionel Messi’s Argentina made sure on Sunday that newcomers Qatar’s Copa America adventure ended in the group stages, but the young Al Annabi side are returning with their heads held high.
Though Felix Sanchez’s men finished with just a point, from their 2-2 draw against Paraguay, they were in the business right till the end, and even against two-time world champions Argentina, they fought valiantly despite going down to a disastrous goal in the fourth minute of the match.
Qatar looked unsettled at the start, making a number of defensive mistakes, and Lautaro Martínez took advantage of Bassam Al Rawi’s horribly misplaced pass with a low finish.
However, as they have shown on numerous occasions in the recent past, Qatar took the challenge head-on and were in the hunt until Sergio Aguero scored a second in the 82nd minute.
Qatar don’t have anything much to show for their spirited display but there is no mistaking that Brazil trip has done their confidence a world of good.
Coach Sanchez was happy with the performance of the players but admitted their lack of experience cost them dearly and said they need to continue working hard.
“We may have lacked the experience at crucial moments,” said Sanchez, adding that the games were very demanding for them.
“We believe that these tournaments help us improve, gain experience and provide us with the right level to fight these teams,” Sanchez said. “The overall performance of the team and each individual player was very upscale. We leave with the feeling that we were able to compete well.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was appreciative of Qatar’s performance and said they were a team on the rise.
"They're a very worthy team with a great future, with young players," said Scaloni after the match.
In a few months, Qatar - a small country with big footballing ambitions - have become undisputed Asian champions and now they have proved that they do not look out of place among the best in South America.
For an outsider, Qatar’s sensational Asian Cup triumph happened out of the blue, but years of planning and systematic execution of that plan played a big role in that success. But Sanchez and co are fully aware that the work has only begun for them.
That’s why we can rest assured that they will do much better in Copa America in Colombia and Argentina next year.