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Forget 2022, Qatar focus now on 2018 World Cup

Russia 2018 represents Qatar’s last chance to qualify for a World Cup on merit before automatically playing as hosts in 2022

Published: Updated:

Of the 12 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) teams anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s draw for the Russia World Cup 2018 third round qualifiers, arguably Qatar has the most at stake.

Since being controversially chosen to host the 2022 tournament, the Gulf state has been battered by ongoing allegations of corruption, charges it denies, and labor abuse, which it claims to be addressing through reform.

This week’s draw though -- which will see the dozen remaining AFC sides split into two groups of six, with the top two from each qualifying for Russia -- addresses another criticism, namely that Qatar has little or no footballing past.

Russia 2018 represents Qatar’s last chance to qualify for a World Cup on merit before automatically playing as hosts in 2022.

If Jose Daniel Carreno’s emerging side manage to progress from the third round, they will make history as the first Qatari team to play in football’s biggest tournament.

Fail and Qatar will face four years of inevitable sneering that come 2022 their place among the sport’s elite will be due only to the energy-rich country’s extraordinary wealth in being able to host a $30 billion World Cup.

“It is important that we are there (Russia),” Hassan Al-Thawadi, head of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body overseeing organization of the 2022 World Cup, told AFP.
“The fact of having 2022 is an extra motivation for the players.”