Qatar will soon be competing in their first-ever World Cup, but that does not mean the hosts will settle for the title of honourary participants. Al Annabi have been preparing themselves for this moment ever since their successful bid back in 2010.
Indeed, current head coach Felix Sanchez began his Qatari journey back in 2006 when he joined Aspire Academy, a renowned sporting institution that has produced some of the most country’s most successful first-team players.
Spaniard Sanchez then followed the academy graduates on their journey, coaching them first in the Qatar youth teams and then the Olympic squad before finally taking over the senior side in 2017. This group of players is considered to be one of Al Annabi’s strongest ever.
Sanchez has so far won two titles with Qatar, the first coming in the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship and then with the first team in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Can he replicate such achievements on the greatest stage this winter with this group of Qatari stars? Only time will tell.
Saad Al Sheeb has long since dreamed of donning the number 1 shirt for Qatar at a home World Cup. In his interview with Al-Jazeera back in 2019, he said: “At present, my only dream is to represent Qatar at the 2022 World Cup.”
The Al Sadd SC goal-stopper has been a mainstay of Qatar’s national team since his debut back in 2009. Al Sheeb was vital in Al Sadd’s back-to-back title triumphs in the Qatar Stars League over the past two seasons and on top of that, the player has earned more than 75 international caps. The keeper has also featured in major international tournaments such as the Asian Cup, Copa America, and the Concacaf Gold Cup.
Awarded the honour of Best Goalkeeper at the 2019 Asian Cup, he only conceded one goal throughout that tournament thanks to his quick reaction time and ability to snuff out counterattacks. He will no doubt play a pivotal role at Qatar 2022, and stern tests surely lie ahead, as he is tasked with nullifying the likes of Sadio Mane, Memphis Depay, and Frenkie de Jong.
Al Sheeb still has to earn his place in the starting lineup though, considering the brilliant displays by Meshaal Barsham at the 2021 Arab Cup.