BY D. CHAKRABORTY
DOHA: The Qatar national Under-23 football team, hoping to make the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, is expecting nothing less than a feisty encounter against football giants Brazil in a friendly at the Al Arabi Stadium here tonight.
The last time these two teams faced each other was in Toulouse, France, when Qatar were handed a heavy 7-1 defeat by the Brazilians.
However, the coach of Qatar’s Olympic football team, Fahad Thani, said today’s encounter would be ideal preparation ahead of qualifications for the 2016 Olympic Games and improve his team’s big-match temperament.
“As we prepare for Rio 2016, our players must have the experience of playing against strong teams. They must get used to playing against big names like Brazil,” Fahad said yesterday.
He also felt that playing club football in different leagues would give young players good exposure.
“We want our players to take part in different leagues. To judge a footballer, he needs to play fifty games in a season,” Fahad added.
Brazil coach Alexandre Gallo, however, said they were not taking Qatar lightly, also known as Al Annabi.
“We have respect for all teams. Every game has its lessons,” Gallo said.
When asked about the Selecao’s recent World Cup disaster and how the Brazilians intended to rebuild their national squad, Gallo said: “It is a collective responsibility. We have some key players in this squad and national team coach Dunga keeps abreast about their progress.”
Brazilian midfielder Rafinha Alcantara, who plays for Spanish club Barcelona, said the Middle East was emerging as an attractive destination for some big names in football.
“A lot of Brazilian players come to play in the Middle East,” the 21-year-old said.
He also spoke about the growth of football in the Gulf state and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“For us young players, Qatar is very exciting,” Alcantara said.
“This is a fast-growing country; they are building a lot of stadiums, lot of infrastructure. I think the World Cup in Qatar will be very exciting,” he added.
Qatari player Ahmed Yasser said there was good team spirit in the dressing room and they were looking forward to the game.
“We have been playing together for a few years now. Some of us started four-five years ago at Aspire Academy and I think there is harmony in the team,” Yasser said during a pre-match press conference yesterday.
Qatar have already played 10 friendlies against teams like Senegal and Macedonia to build a competitive side for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers, which start in March next year.
In October they will face Algeria and Ghana and then take on Sweden and Slovakia in November.
Fahad, who managed the senior team from January 2013 until March this year, informed that the Qatar Under-23 team had withdrawn from the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, because the Games were clashing with their international schedule.
The Asian Games take place between September 19 to October 4.