Anything can happen for Qatar

Chris Wang speaks with coach Dzemaludin Musovic and forward Hussain Abdulrahman.

    Qatar national football coach Dzemaludin Musovic
    will see if the future is now for his team [Al Jazeera]

    Having successfully hosted the 15th Asian Games in December last year, Qatar looks likely to be the location of the next edition of the Asian Cup in 2011, and is also planning an audacious bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

    These sporting coups are a sign of the times for the burgeoning Gulf state, and for national football coach Dzemaludin Musovic, the upcoming Asian Cup is a chance to see the project he has long referred to as 'a team for the future' finally come to fruition.

    Qatar's last hit out before they headed east was a testing friendly against Turkmenistan in oppressive conditions at Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium in the capital Doha.

    "It was a good run in these conditions to prepare us for the Asian Cup," Musovic told Al Jazeera after his side's 1-0 win thanks to a stunning Waleed Jassem free-kick in the second half.

    "Most players got 70 to 90 minutes tonight, so that's good preparation."

    It was indeed good preparation, with players toiling in mid-30 degree Celsius temperatures and humidity more than 70 per cent, while spectators worked up a sweat just watching from the stands.

    Musovic's men have plenty to prove after a highly disappointing Gulf Cup of Nations campaign in the UAE in January.

    IN VIDEO

    Click here to see Al Jazeera's Sportsworld story on the Asian Cup's Gulf nations

    Qatar, defending champions from 2004, finished last in their group after losses to Iraq and Bahrain and a draw with Saudi Arabia, which Musovic blamed on the limited preparation the team had, being just four weeks after their Asian Games triumph.

    Master and apprentice meet

    Musovic is no stranger to guiding teams at big tournaments, as he was assistant coach of Yugoslavia from 1988 to 1990 under Ivica Osim, who is now coach of Asian Cup defending champions Japan.

    In one of football's ironies, Musovic will face his old mentor Osim when Qatar and Japan clash in their first match of the tournament at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi on July 9.

    "We met again at the last World Cup," Musovic said of his Bosnian counterpart.

    "I know his style, he likes his teams to play open football.

    "But it doesn't always depend on the coaches, it's how the players perform on the day."

    Natural selection

    Qatar forward Hussain Abdulrahman, left, was
    impressive against Turkmenistan [Al Jazeera]

    With an estimated population of 900,000, of which approximately one quarter are citizens, Qatar has found it difficult to produce enough high-class candidates eligible to play for the national team.

    The naturalisation of players such as Mohamed Saqr Ahmed and Abdulla Koni from Senegal, and Sebastian Soria from Uruguay, have provided Qatar with quality in the goal keeping, central defence and striking positions respectively.

    These unusual moves have perhaps accelerated Qatar's success at an international level, but local talent still filters through in the likes of attacking midfielder Jassem, and forward Hussain Yasser Abdulrahman.

    Abdulrahman had a stint at English Premier League club Manchester City in 2005, and although he didn't break into the first team it is apparent his experience in Europe has done wonders for his game.

    The diminutive forward continued his comeback from recent injury with an impressive performance against Turkmenistan.

    "Today was an important game for us," Abdulrahman said.

    "I think the team is improving collectively, individually, and physically."

    'Anything can happen'

    Abdulrahman hopes to be back to full fitness
    for the opening match with Japan [Al Jazeera]

    It was clear the 23-year-old was wholly focussed on the Asian Cup, as he pushed himself to the limit in the trying conditions.

    "It's been a long time since I've played 90 minutes because I've been out injured," he said.

    "I asked the coaching staff if I could play a full game today.  It was good training for me today to play 90 minutes.

    "I think I'll be 100 per cent by the first game against Japan."

    It is difficult to line up the form of the teams from West Asia with those from the east, but Qatar and Japan will certainly know where they stand after their early meeting in the tournament.

    "Japan is one of the best teams in Asia and were the champions in the last version of this competition, but every game is eleven against eleven and anything can happen in football," said Abdulrahman.

    "It's going to be difficult of course, but we can beat Japan. 

    "If they are going for the win and we are going for the win, anything can happen."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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