Qatar’s Spanish coach #00 Felix Sanchez (R) watches his players from the touchline during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on November 20, 2022. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

Qatar’s early World Cup exit will not be fatal for the country’s football development, manager Felix Sanchez said Friday, after the hosts became the first team to be eliminated.

A 1-1 draw between Ecuador and the Netherlands sent Qatar crashing out of the tournament just hours after a 3-1 defeat to Senegal had left them on the brink.

Qatar became only the second host nation to go out in the first round following South Africa in 2010, and the first to be eliminated after two games.

But Sanchez believes football will continue to develop in the tiny Gulf state despite the disappointment, and targeted a return to the world’s biggest stage.

“The World Cup will finish but football will continue here,” said the Spaniard, who led Qatar to the 2019 Asian Cup title.

“It’s a football country and they want to keep developing young talent so they can reach the senior team. We can keep on competing within our limitations in Asia.

“By doing that, we’ll get more experience and we’ll be able to play in more competitions like this.”

Qatar made a nervy start to the tournament in an opening-day defeat to Ecuador but put up more of a fight against Senegal.

The hosts refused to lie down when Senegal scored either side of half-time and pulled a goal back through substitute Mohammed Muntari to set up a dramatic finale.

Senegal nipped the comeback in the bud with a third goal six minutes later, but Sanchez was pleased with his team’s fighting spirit.

“We wanted to show what we could do on the pitch today,” he said.

“Most of our opponents are ahead of us but the players did very well and at times we managed to compete against a tough opponent in Senegal.”

Qatar’s final group game against the Netherlands on Tuesday has now become a dead rubber for the hosts but Sanchez believes it will be anything but worthless.

“We have a very tough ahead of us against the Netherlands and we intend to be competitive,” he said.

“We can’t miss a chance like this, playing at a World Cup.”

AFP

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