Qatar, Saudi Arabia ready for high-octane semi-final

  • 8 months   ago
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Qatari players taking part in a training session yesterday.

Today’s semi-final between Asian champions Qatar and regional giants Saudi Arabia at the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup will definitely give an adrenaline rush to all those involved – the players, the coaches and particularly the fans who are expected to fill the 40,000-capacity Al Janoub Stadium.

The clash – the second semi-final which kicks off at 8.00pm - has been dubbed as the battle between the two evenly matched sides – who also started the eight-nation event in a similar fashion.

While Saudi Arabia - coached by Frenchman Herve Renard - were shocked by Kuwait 1-3 in their first Group B match, Felix Sanchez’s Qatar suffered a surprise 1-2 defeat to Iraq in the inaugural match of the tournament.

But since then, both the pre-event favourites bounced back and won their next two games to enter the last-four stage.


For Qatar coach - whose team defeated the UAE 4-2 on Monday to set up the Saudi clash – there is no room for error for his side in today’s game, which will follow the first semi-final between Iraq and Bahrain.

“It is going to be a difficult match. At this point of the event, we cannot make mistakes,” Sanchez said at a pre-match press conference yesterday.

“Saudi Arabia are a strong side but once again we are confident. We are playing matches in a short period but players are ready. All the players want to give their best and achieve good results,” said the Spaniard before adding besides Bassam Al Rawi – who underwent a surgery after first game – all players will be available for the crunch match.

Saudi Arabia enjoy a good overall record against their neighbours, winning 17 out of 39 games played between the two sides, with Qatar victorious on 7 occasions while 15 matches ended without yielding results.

But three-time champions Qatar will go into the game with a psychological edge due to their recent form as they defeated Saudis twice in their last two outings that includes a memorable 2-0 victory at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup last January.

However, Sanchez said the past results will not have any impact in today’s clash.

“Those two games were important for the national team but that has become the past. This (today’s game) will be a different game. It’s going to be an open game. The games we played months or some years ago will not matter in this semi-final,” the coach said while hoping that his players will control their emotions in the high-octane clash.

“The players controlled themselves very well against the UAE and we need to do the same against the Saudi side,” Sanchez told reporters as he shrugged off the impression that the game is clash between Spanish and French schools of football.

“This is a Qatar vs Saudi Arabia match. It is not about the nationalities of the coaches. We hope we play a good game and make Qatari fans proud,” said Sanchez

Star Al Annabi goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb vowed all out effort from his side, hoping to get overwhelming support from the home fans.

“Both the teams have excellent players and we will give our best to win and reach the final. In the last match, when we entered the stadium, we didn’t find a single empty seats. We are hoping for the same in the semi-final because fans are very important.”

Saudi Arabia’s coach, Renard said pressure will be on both the teams when they will square off at the ‘fantastic’ FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 venue today.

“We are happy to qualify for the semis. It’s a very important game. It’s a tough game,” said the Frenchman.

“There is no specific pressure. We are happy to play in this fantastic stadium. It is very beautiful stadium. It is always better to play in front of a lot of spectators. We are doing this job for this adrenaline,” he said.

“I think we are increasing our performance (level) since we started this event. The first game (loss against Kuwait) was difficult for many reasons but the players did well since we were missing some of the key players,” Renard said.

“Against Bahrain and Oman, we were completely different as we got our experienced players back. Al Hilal players are back with us now. We are confident. We are playing a different team, a stronger team. We also know what we are capable of doing,” the 51-year-old Frenchman said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s young star, Abdullah Al Hamdan said his team was confident and targeting a place in the final.

“We are fit – psychically and mentally. Our confidence is high and we are looking to do well in this important match,” said the 20-year-old striker.