DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The show is over for the Qatari team, which was knocked out of the World Cup on Friday. less than a week after the tournament opened and launched the first iteration of the biggest soccer event in the Middle East.
Qatar fell 3-1 to Senegal for their second consecutive World Cup defeat and their departure was confirmed a few hours later, when the Netherlands and Ecuador drew 1-1 in the other match of Group A.
By becoming the fastest host nation team to leave the tournament in the 92-year history of the World Cup, Qatar cannot qualify for the round of 16 no matter what happens in their last game against the Netherlands.
South Africa had been the only other home team to fail to make it past the group stage in 2010, but at least they managed a win and a draw.
“If you expected us to go very far in this tournament, you will be disappointed,” Qatar coach Félix Sánchez said before his team was officially eliminated. “Our goal was to be competitive.”
The writing was on the wall from the start for Qatar. The team may be the 2019 Asian champions, but they looked nervous and overwhelmed in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador last Sunday. immediately after a glittering opening ceremony hosted by the wealthy Gulf emirate and intended to show it off to the world.
Qatar’s performance on Friday was a little, but not much better for a team that plays in the local league and lacks the kind of top talent that is present in almost every World Cup team now.
Qatar at least scored this time, a second-half header from substitute Mohammed Muntari, a Ghanaian-born striker who is one of many in the team born outside of Qatar but brought in to boost their World Cup chances. Trailing 2-1, Qatar threatened to come from behind against the African champions for just six minutes before Bamba Dieng responded to score Senegal’s third goal and restore a two-goal cushion.
Senegal got their campaign back on track after losing their opening game to the Netherlands. Coach Aliou Cissé was also pleased that three forwards – Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou and Dieng – entered the scoring as Senegal has its own challenge at this World Cup: to fill the gap left by Sadio Mané’s injury earlier of the tournament.
Cissé had instructed his remaining forwards to step up before playing the hosts at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. They responded.
“Yes, we got the message loud and clear,” Dia said. “Efficiency efficiency, efficiency. You have to put yourself in front of the goal and you have to score.”
Qatar had never qualified for the World Cup before FIFA’s highly controversial decision in 2010 to give it the tournament. That gave his team automatic entry. But while the oil and gas-rich nation spent some $220 billion of its vast riches building stadiums, highways and even a new World Cup city, it was unable to put together a solid defense for the team.
Qatar fell behind to Senegal after an amateur error by central defender Boualem Khoukhi, who tried to make a clearance without pressure, mishit and landed on his back. The ball dribbled away from Khoukhi and Dia whipped it for his first World Cup goal.
Diedhiou made it 2-0 early in the second half with a header from a corner that two Qatari defenders failed to save.
Qatar had a stroke of bad luck when they were denied a penalty and the chance for the lead before Dia’s goal. Doha-born Akram Afif was brought down by a charging Ismaila Sarr, but referee Antonio Mateu of Spain did not award a penalty despite replays suggesting there was contact.
“We have to forget about today, move on and play against the Netherlands,” Sánchez said.
A WAVE (GOODBYE?) TO QATAR
As Qatar rallied for a while in the second half, the white-clad Qatari supporters tried to support their team.
Thousands of local fans withdrew in the middle of Qatar’s first loss to Ecuador, but they stayed against Senegal and even broke the wave around the stadium. It turned out to be more of a World Cup send-off.
Senegal came closer to adjusting to life in Qatar without Mané, with those three forwards on the scoreboard.
“It is very difficult to replace a player like Sadio Mane, but football is a team sport,” said Cissé, the Senegal coach.
Also important for Senegal, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy made two world-class saves to suggest a return to some form after he was blamed for both goals in a 2-0 loss to the Dutch.
Qatar retires against the Netherlands on Tuesday. Senegal is still not without problems and will face Ecuador on the same day and both will play for a place in the round of 16.
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