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‘Our first title is to qualify for the World Cup’, Qatar Coach Queiroz says

Preparations for the Gold Cup are underway as the coach unveiled a 26-player squad for the training camp in Austria ahead of the tournament.

The Qatar National Football Team’s World Cup is not in 2026, but on 13th November 2023, national team coach Carlos Queiroz said at a Qatar Football Association (QFA) press conference on Tuesday, adding that his goal is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

“With all due respect, the World Cup of Qatar, it is not expected in 2026,” said Queiroz in his first press conference as Qatar coach.

“2026, it is the World Cup of probably German Brazil, Argentina, England because they play to be world champion,” the Portuguese coach stated, adding that Qatar’s run for the the 2026 FIFA World Cup begins with the qualifying stages, promising a fierce fight to pass that phase.

“It will be a marathon journey. It is my dream to help Qatar qualify for the first time in the World Cup. […] Our World Cup, in this moment, it is to qualify for the World Cup [2026]. That’s our first title,” he said.

‘Step by step’

The former Portugal boss indicated that following the Gold Cup which is set to take place on 16 June– 16 July, his main priorities will be preparing his team for the World Cup qualification campaign in November and performance in the 2024 Asian Cup.

“If you cannot climb one mountain with one step, you need to go step by step. You need to be a winner in the first stage, a winner in the second stage, a winner in the third stage.”

“To qualify for the World Cup is the ultimate goal. In November 2023 our World Cup will start. This is our trophy. We don’t have too much time. We have 183 days to start our World Cup. We cannot climb a mountain with one step, we have to take many steps,” he said.

Queiroz led his native Portugal side in the 2010 World Cup before taking Iran to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2015 AFC Asian Cup, 2018 FIFA World Cup as well as the most recent FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. If he is successful in his ambition to host the 2026 World Cup, it will be his fifth appearance in the finals.

Queiroz acknowledged that helping Qatar defend their Asian Cup championship at home in January will be his first challenge.

“Qatar won the 2019 Asian Cup. But, today, we are ranked sixth in Asia – five other Asian teams are in front of us. Japan, South Korea, Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are ahead of us, then we have Iraq and the UAE.”

“This is exactly the mountain we need to climb. We have to challenge ourselves against top Asian teams. We need to be ready to defend the Asian title. It won’t be easy but we need to stand up and work hard every day. On the pitch we have lots of things to do. Qatar needs to win consistently and not just win here and there.”

“If we have to be the best, we need to be the best and compete and challenge the best,” he added.

Qatar are positioned in Group A with China, Tajikistan and Lebanon to play in the Asian Cup taking place from 12 January to 10 February, 2024.

Gold Cup preparations

Preparations for the Gold Cup are underway, with the coach stating that after the home camp, Qatar’s second phase of training will begin on 29 May in Austria, during which the team will also play friendlies against Croatia, Jamaica and New Zealand before leaving for the US.

Al Annabi, who will compete in the Gold Cup as a guest team for the second time in the competition, will face Haiti on 24 June in Houston.

The Asian champions then play Honduras on 29 June in Glendale, Arizona, before concluding their Group B fixtures on 2 July in Santa Clara, California, against giants Mexico.

The coach, who replaced Felix Sanchez in February following Qatar’s World Cup run, announced a 26-player squad for the training camp ahead of the forthcoming Gold Cup, leaving out several senior players.

The decision to leave out Qatar star players like Hassan Al Haydos, Akram Afif, goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, Boualem Khoukhi, Karim Boudiaf, Pedro Miguel and Abdulaziz Hatem in the roster announcement sparked some questions.

Before announcing the final 26-player roster, Queiroz said that he originally assembled the pool of 66 players before whittling it down to 44 individuals.

“Since coming here, I’ve watched domestic games, videos of 23 matches of the national team and their matches of the Gulf Cup. I continued to watch them day and night and also spoke to club coaches,” he said.

Queiroz claimed that rather than removing the older players, the introduction of new players was intended to increase the pool of national players.

“It’s not a question of exclusion but it is about inclusion of new players who are rewarded for their performances. The word exclusion is not in my dictionary. Also, it is a right decision to rest some players,” he stated.

“Qatar teams should have no egos. We want to have the best players on the pitch. The door is always open for others and they will get attention to make a comeback. It’s important for some players to have a break and it is also an opportunity for others as it can build competition for places,” he added.

Queiroz went on to urge supporters of Al Annabi to continue filling stadiums, saying: “the fans are our 12th player and we need their consistent support in this challenge.”