Asian champions Qatar take on Columbia at FIFA U20 World Cup
HAMILTON, New Zealand: Asian champions Qatar will get a chance to test
their skills at the global stage on Sunday when they take on South
American giants Colombia on day two of the FIFA U20 World Cup.
Qatar, the 1981 finalists, are making a comeback to the event after 20
years following their historic Asian U-19 title win last October while
rivals Columbia will be keen to go one better than their last-16
performance two years ago.
Coached by Felix Sanchez, Qatar have spent most of their time in May
training and playing warm-up games in Australia and New Zealand.
Sanchez headed the Qatar team training on Saturday at Waikato Stadium,
the match venue for Sunday’s Group C clash that will kick-off at
1:00pm local time.
This Hamilton encounter – to be played in cold conditions – will
certainly provide an early opportunity for both sides to prove their
mettle, especially Qatar who last appeared at the 1995 edition.
Columbia reached the last-16 stage at the FIFA U20 World Cup won by
France two years ago. The South American giants – yet to lift the
crown – finished third in 2003.
Both teams have never played each other at this level but a win for
Sanchez’s boys on Sunday would see plenty of fans sit up and take
notice, while Los Cafeteros will be keen to improve on their last-16
showing two years ago.
Clubbed together with Senegal and Portugal, Qatar are considered the
underdogs who could go all the way in Group C.
Qatar, where football remains the number one sport in the country, are
returning to the U-20 World Cup after a 20-year absence, following an
impressive title win at at last year’s AFC U-19 Championship in
Despite the lengthy absence from the event, Qatar will take to the
Waikato Stadium pitch on Sunday knowing they were the surprise package
at the 1981 event when they lost the final 4-0 to West Germany.
In October last year, Qatar began their Asian U-19 Championship
campaign in style, topping Group D ahead of Korea DPR, Iraq and Oman.
Coached by Sanchez since 2013, Qatar then knocked out China PR in the
After disposing of the Chinese, the Qataris then needed extra time to
beat hosts Myanmar 3-2 in the semi-finals. Qatar bagged the trophy
when they downed Korea DPR 1-0 in the final.
For Sanchez, Qatar will be looking forward to their inspirational
captain Ahmad Moein who dictated play from midfield during Qatar’s
triumphant run in Asia last October.
Moein was named Player of the Tournament after telling performances at
the Mynamar event.
The 19-year-old makes up one part of Sanchez’s quartet from Belgian
side KAS Eupen. Eight months ago, 13 of the players Sanchez took to
Myanmar play their club football in Europe.
“A decision was made to send them to Europe so they could improve as
players. It’s a great experience for them, no doubt about it,” Sanchez
said at the time.
“I’d really like to see some of them in action at the 2022 World Cup
and even the 2018 finals,” Sanchez, the former Barcelona youth coach,
added after Qatar won the Asian title.
Meanwhile, Columbia coach Carlos Alberto Restrepo has selected a squad
with just two youngsters with experience of playing in Europe. Andres
Tello and Alexis Zapata play in Italy.
Restrepo will look towards these two for wins in Group C clashes but
overall the Colombian squad has quality.
Goalkeeper Alvaro Montero and central defender Juan Quintero are both
rocks at the back. Key figures further up the pitch include attacking
midfielders Sergio Villarreal and Jarlan Barrera and forwards Rafael
Borre and Jeison Lucumi. The latter was the team’s top scorer in
qualifying with four goals.
Also on Sunday, Portugal play Senegal at the same venue.
Portugal, making their third-straight appearance at the U-20 World
Cup, finished runners-up at last year’s European U-19 Championship.
They won the title in 1989 and 1991 and were also runners-up in 2011.
This is Portugal’s 10th appearance at the event.
Portugal’s opponents on Sunday, Senegal qualified for their first U-20
finals after making the semi-finals of the African U-20 Championship
earlier this year. They are coached by Joseph Koto.