Qatar, with a shock defeat over World No.8 Switzerland on Wednesday, are brimming with confidence ahead of their international friendly against Iceland on Monday, coach Felix Sanchez said yesterday.
Qatar, who are on a tour of Europe for two friendly games as part of their preparations for next year’s Asian Cup, went into the friendly as a World No.96 team but they never looked like a mismatch against the home side, which reached the last-16 stage of 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in June.
With Swiss big guns including Liverpool attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, Newcastle United defender Fabian Schar and Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka all taking part in the match in Lugano, Qatar pulled off an 86th-minute winner through rising star Akram Afif.
The Qatari youngster beat a defender and goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo off a cross from Karim Boudiaf to complete the historic victory.
It was Qatar’s fourth victory out of five friendly games they have played in the last two months, with their only loss this season is a 2-0 defeat to Uzbekistan in Tashkent last month.
After the pulsating clash, Sanchez said Qatar’s recent performance shows the side is closing the gap on world’s top side.
“This victory will definitely boost the players’ confidence. This victory will be a good motivation for hard work as it gives us hope that we can play against the top teams,” Sanchez said.
“We are happy with the win as it will make all the Qataris very proud. The victory will also give us more hope as we continue our preparation for the (2019) Asian Cup,” he added.
Qatar, who fly to Milan for their friendly against Iceland, were not expected to beat Switzerland as both the opponents were separated by 88 places in the FIFA world rankings before the match.
Sanchez said Qatar were required to give something special against their tough opponents and they succeeded in doing that. “When you’re facing a top team we need to do more things that we are not used to do but that’s the way to compete,” he said.
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic, while lamenting his team’s performance, gave full credit to Qatar.
“Our first half was very poor, the second was a bit better but I can’t say our opponents did not deserve the win,” said Petkovic. Following the European friendlies, Qatar will play more international games next month when they host Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Algeria and Iran on December 17, 23, 25 and 31.
The AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial event, will be held in the UAE from January 5 to February 1, 2019.