Qatar fans rally behind team ahead of second match

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Qatar started the tournament with a 2-0 defeat against Ecuador and will now face Senegal in the other Group A match.

Doha, Qatar As Qatar prepares for victory in their second World Cup match on home soil, Al Anabi fans are running behind the team with hopes and expectations.

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Qatar started the tournament with a 2-0 loss against Ecuador on Sunday. They will now face Senegal in their second Group A match on Friday.

Friday’s defeat will knock Qatar out of the last-16 race. However, despite the work at hand, the fans have come out in support of the home team.

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“We don’t want to put them under any pressure that they should win, we just want them to have a good game,” Ali Ghanem, a teenage fan of the home team, told Al Jazeera.

Qatar, one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament, is making its World Cup debut as the host.

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Despite being the defending Asian champions and improving their ranking over the years, Al Anabi has been unable to cope with the pressure of the tournament.

While captains Hassan Al-Haydos, Akram Afif, Saad Al-Sheeb and Almoej Ali may be household names in the Gulf state, none of them have played club football outside Qatar and are relatively unknown to the outside world.

According to Tunisian fan Amin, having the eyes of the world on them for the first time made the team nervous.

“It was a historic moment for them. Now, after the first match has passed, the people of Qatar should let the team go and enjoy themselves instead of expecting them to win,” he said.

Homam Ahmed of Qatar in action during their opening match against Ecuador [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Ismail Mohammed, a member of the Qatari team, called on the fans to support the team.

“Our team needs our fans now more than ever,” he said during the press conference on the eve of the match.

Fans duly obliged and turned out to support their team in Doha’s Mushireeb area on Thursday evening. They walked with their maroon and white Qatari flags in the village of Al Anabi, a fan zone for Qatari supporters in Mushreeb.

Large video screens in the fan area showed the team’s achievements in the Asian Cup and the Arab Cup as fans sang along to popular songs.

Qatar coach Felix Sanchez admitted his team crumbled under pressure against Ecuador.

“We hope that now we are relieved of all the pressure that we had in the opening match,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“I hope we can compete and show that we can be more competitive than the other day, regardless of the result.”

If Qatar fails to win, it will become only the second host nation after South Africa (2010) to be eliminated at the first hurdle.

The team said it would look to draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia, which beat Argentina 2–1 in their opening match, and from other Arab teams that performed well in the tournament.

Sonia Nemas, a Jordanian mother of three football-mad girls, said her family has always supported Qatar and has high hopes for the team.

“If they manage to get at least one win and one draw in the remaining two matches, we can still be [have] A miracle,” she said.

Nemmas reckons Akram Afif and Abdel Karim Hassan will be the stand-out players for Qatar.

“Even if they manage to come out of the group stage with a point, we will be happy.”

Credit: www.aljazeera.com /

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