Félix Sánchez: ‘In New Zealand, we will take it one game at a time’
Auckland, New Zealand: With just under three weeks to go until the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, Qatar’s young Al Ennabi team is already in Oceania taking part in a friendly tournament with some of the other teams involved in the competition. In Hamilton they were given a reception reminiscent of the way FIFA World Cup™ teams are received in their team base camp cities, as a ‘kapa haka’ welcome was organised before the Qatari team interacted with local school kids through a skills training session.
The Qatar U-20 side, coached by SpaniardFélix Sánchez, will be entering the tournament as Asianchampions following their continental triumph in Myanmar last year. In three friendly matches so far, Qatar lost 4-2 to Ghana, but quickly picked up momentum with wins against Australia and hosts New Zealand, winning 4-1 and 2-0 respectively. After the FIFA World Cup™, the FIFA U-20 World Cup is regarded as one of the world’s biggest and most important global football tournaments. The 2007 and 2009 editions of the tournament saw international television audiences reach the hundreds of millions.
“Since we arrived here we have had three games in which the results and most importantly the impressions we have had of the players have been good. We still need to improve but we are happy so far,”Sáncheztold www.sc.qa.
“There are still three weeks left and three more friendly games to play. It will help us to see our level, test tactical details and players. We will continue to work hard to reach the tournament in optimum shape. In the tournament we will take one game at a time and then we will see how far we get.”
Participating players in the tournament may not be household names, but it is precisely this which makes this FIFA U-20 World Cup so popular. Players that make their mark are seen as the future of football, and some famous names to have played in past editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup include Paul Pogba, Lionel Messi, and the 1979 tournament’s best player, Diego Armando Maradona.
According toSánchez, the Qataris have received a warm welcome so far.
He added: “Today we were welcomed here in Hamilton where our group matches will be. We were playing with the local school kids and teachers, and they are very friendly and happy that we are here. In the game against New Zealand the home fans were very fair and applauded our goals, and our players have also been to a school and a shopping centre to promote the World Cup and get people involved.”
The Spanish coach who formerly worked at FC Barcelona added that the experience would help the young Qatari players in their development.
“These boys can be in a great football age in 2022, when they will be 25, 26, and there is a great desire amongst all those who work with the team for them to be competing in their home World Cup in 2022. It is a long journey, but it will be enriching for them to experience this Under 20 World Cup, which is the closest you will get to the World Cup,” Sánchez concluded.
The Qatar side travel to Sydney on the 14May for a friendly match, before returning to Hamilton on 22 May where they will prepare for their opening group match against Colombia on 31 May.