World Cup dismay for host Qatar as Ecuador wins opening game of 2019 qualifying
Qatar hosts Venezuela in the first leg of their playoff with an away goal in the final group game in October. (AFP file photo)
Qatar will face Venezuela in the first leg of their playoff with an away goal in the final group game in October – and the hosts will be facing the prospect of a second consecutive group exit after losing its opening game of the 2019 qualifying tournament.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both qualified for the World Cup but will not face each other in the first qualifying round after losing their opening games in the process.
Ecuador lost to Qatar before a late equaliser on Wednesday, while Colombia defeated Venezuela 2-1 to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the first time in 17 years.
And while Qatar’s 4-3 win over Ecuador has been widely cited as evidence of its excellent showings in the Gulf Cup, some of the key figures have voiced concern over their performance.
In a detailed analysis of the teams’ performances in the Gulf Cup, journalist Chris Walker of the Sunday Times found that four of the five teams have performed well in the tournament and their performances have been rewarded.
The exception was Qatar, which had the best tournament and won the overall title but only finished in second place on the group table behind Spain, which the Gulf Cup organisers did not include in their list of expected results, and was defeated in the last 16 for the first time since their debut in 1982.
Walker said: “The Qatar squad has performed admirably in the last 16 stage of the Gulf Cup, winning all six of its games to take the lead on the group table.
“But it’s the other five teams who have done most to damage Qatar’s chances for qualifying for Russia.”
Walker, who wrote the report on the Gulf Cup from Qatar’s side, said: “On paper, Qatar are the best team in the tournament and they’ve been rewarded for their excellent