Qatar are ranked higher than Ghana, have held a six-month training camp and Tim Cahill is the academy’s sporting director.

The Qatar national football team will play their first-ever World Cup final match this Sunday when this winter’s tournament kicks off.

It’s fair to say that the hosts’ path to the opener is also the first of its kind, given the country’s unique history and the methods behind its rise in the world rankings.


The World Cup is in the Middle East for the very first time

Since Qatar received the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010, they have reached the Gold Cup semi-finals, won the Asian Under-19 Championships and are the defending FIFA Cup champions. Asia.

They also feature an impressive power setup named Aspire Academy, which has former Everton star Tim Cahill as their sporting director.

Qatar also ranks above other 2022 World Cup contenders Ghana – which has Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew – and Saudi Arabia, with the host nation sitting 50th in the table. FIFA World Cup.

But while the country’s youth teams enjoyed some success in the 1980s, Qatar isn’t exactly renowned for its football.

However, since the 2000s, World Cup hosts have invested billions to ensure their football team competes with the best in the world.

So how did a country with a population of 2.9 million and the same number of Qatari citizens as there are residents of Leicester manage to rank 50th in the world ahead of this winter’s tournament? ?

Qatar played their first international match in 1970 - now they are World Cup contenders


Qatar played their first international match in 1970 – now they are World Cup contenders


Nicknamed the Maroons, Qatar played their first international match in 1970 in a loss to Bahrain. They even faced Brazil in a friendly three years later, coming up against the iconic Pelé.

But it was in 1981 that they made their mark in football for the first time, reaching the World Youth Championship final against West Germany – which saw Qatar lose 4-0 – after beating Germany. England and Brazil.

The country was led by ex-Brazilian and Barcelona star Evaristo de Macedo, creating the trend for Qatar to have foreign managers.

Since 1969, the country has had 43 different coaches, including three Qatari.

Other teams used the Aspire Academy facilities ahead of the tournament


Other teams used the Aspire Academy facilities ahead of the tournament

Aspire Academy

Even before winning the 2022 World Cup and automatically being awarded a place in the tournament as hosts, Qatar wanted to push their football team to new heights.

After initially wanting to bring in players from abroad to improve their national team, such as Brazil and Borussia Dortmund star Dede, FIFA changed the rules governing whether players can represent countries.

But with the caveat that players could represent a country as long as they spend time in the country to live or work there.

Uruguayan Sebastian Soria, who came to represent Qatar, is now the second most capped player in the country, with 126 caps.

But Qatar still had a desire to develop its own sporting talent at home – and that’s how the Aspire Academy was born. Based in Doha and costing £1.2 billion, Aspire seeks talent from Qatar, Africa, Latin America and South East Asia.

With the aim of both exposing children to high-quality talent and training them to play in the Qatari team, the academy provides grants to children between the ages of 11 and 18 to provide them with education and training. formation in hopes that they will one day represent them on the world stage.

Cahill, who football fans know best from his Premier League career, was appointed director of sport at the academy last year.

On Qatar’s unique set-up, the former Australian World Cup star said: “The Qatar national team is a unit. It’s unique to see the players grow together, to see the chemistry and the leadership.

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“You know, there are no negotiations when it comes to the composition of the national team, there is no stone unturned. And I see it. I look out the window and I see the first team training and also the young people training, everything is in the attention to detail.

He continued: “So I think it’s a great benchmark for a lot of federations around the world to look at Qatar and say, wait, yes, they invested a lot of money, but how did they spend it. .

“What little pieces can I take [from Qatar] to be competitive at this level?

Current team

The Aspire Academy have produced 18 of Maroon’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup.

13 of these stars were born in Qatar, while 10 were born abroad, and three had no connection to Qatar before arriving as professionals.

Star Akram Afif – was the first Qatari to play in La Liga for Villarreal – and Almoez Ali both come from Aspire Academy.

Their manager, Spaniard Felix Sanchez, has been in charge since 2017 and led them to 2019 Asian Cup glory.

Sanchez led Qatar to Asian Cup glory in 2019


Sanchez led Qatar to Asian Cup glory in 2019

But before facing Ecuador in Group A on the opening day of the tournament – live on talkSPORT – the Qatari side had to endure a six-month training camp, playing friendlies around the world , including one against Serie A side Udinese.

They had planned to play Championship side Watford, but the Hornets called it off due to fan concerns over the country’s human rights record.

It has certainly been a once-in-a-lifetime step up to their first-ever World Cup, but fans will be eager to see how the host fare as they seek to continue Qatar’s rise in world football.

talkSPORT World Cup 2022 coverage

talkSPORT will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the 2022 World Cup

We will broadcast all 64 matches of the tournament live, with over 600 hours of coverage on our network.

You can tune into talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 via our free online streaming service at

talkSPORT is widely available across the UK via DAB digital radio and on 1089 or 1053 AM.

You can also download the talkSPORT app or ask your smart speaker to play talkSPORT.

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