Qatar Football AssociationNews
10.01.2015 10:15 in :

Canberra: Qatar coach Djamel Belmadi has hailed the return of star forward Khalfan Ibrahim to the ranks in time for the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 opener against fellow Gulf side the United Arab Emirates on Sunday at Canberra Stadium, after the former AFC Player of the Year missed out on their Gulf Cup triumph last November.

Since making his debut for the senior national team in 2006, Ibrahim has been a fixture in the starting line-up and he scored the goal in October’s friendly against Australiathat gave Qatar a historic first-ever win over the Socceroos.

But a month later when Qatar embarked on their successful Gulf Cup campaign in Saudi Arabia, Belmadi’s side were without the forward who was sidelined with injury. And the return of the 26-year-old is a huge fillip to the West Asian’s cause.

“Khalfan is a key player – a major player – for Qatar. He missed the Gulf Cup but he came back well from his injury and he is happy to join the team, especially after our success. He adds value to the team and we’re happy to see him back,” said former Algeria midfielder Belmadi, ahead of the Group C encounter.

“Khalfan has been a member of the national team for the last eight years without winning a medal, so it is sad he could not win the Gulf Cup with us. But it means he comes to Australia with a lot of personal ambition and he knows he is joining a winning team.

“Everybody wishes he can reach both an individual target and target it (in) terms of performance and starting with a good contribution to the team on Sunday.”

Since joining the national team set-up a little over a year ago, Belmadi has enjoyed success with Qatar leading them to a comprehensive victory at the 2014 WAFF Championship in an undefeated campaign before he picked up the reins at the national team and claimed the Gulf Cup title as well as a string of impressive results in recent friendlies.

Opposite number, Mahdi Ali, though, has also seen success with the UAE and Belmadi was quick to praise the Emirati coach.

“Mahdi Ali has been working with the UAE team for a long time, he won the 2013 Gulf Cup and helped the side qualify for the 2012 Olympics, he is doing an amazing job with their team and he has done a massive job for his country,” added Belmadi.

“It’s a fellow Gulf team we’re against on Sunday but the environment and competition is different. Even though we know them it will be a different atmosphere and competition and it will be a massive game, especially because the UAE have a good team and won the Gulf Cup before us in Bahrain.

“It will be a very interesting game between two teams from the Gulf who have good players and play good football and they are a very tough side.

“Both teams will want to win this game, especially because it’s the first game of the tournament, so it’s important to start well and, I hope, it will be a nice game to watch.”