Sanchez backs confident Qatar to thrive on semi-final pressure
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Head coach Felix Sanchez has declared that his impressive Qatar side are not feeling the pressure as they prepare to meet host nation the United Arab Emirates in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 semi-finals.
After reaching the quarter-finals in 2000 and 2011, Tuesday’s encounter represents Qatar’s first foray into the last four, with Sanchez’s charges, who have yet to concede a goal, amassing five successive victories during their historic campaign.
With a title showdown now just 90 minutes away, and despite the rarefied atmosphere that accompanies any semi-final showdown, the Spanish tactician is backing his players to continue their fine form against the 1996 finalists.
“I think that one of the key reasons for us reaching this stage of the competition is that the players have been aware of the pressure. In any competition you have pressure as you need to get the right results.
“The team, I believe, has coped very well with the situation so far. Of course, all of us know there is added pressure because it is the semi-final, but I think we are feeling confident rather than under pressure ahead of the match.
“It is a very big game for us, and we are very pleased to be in the semi-finals of this very important tournament. Hopefully against the UAE we are going to play to our strengths and try to do our very best to continue [even further] in the competition.”
“The players are looking forward to the game, and their results up until now show that this group are mentally very strong. My squad is ambitious, and they want to keep going. It has not been easy to keep getting the results we have done game after game, but hopefully in the semi-final we can perform well again and reach the final.”
Qatar will be missing Abdelaziz Hatim and Bassam Al Rawi through suspension, but have Abdelkarim Hassan and Assim Madibo available once again after the duo served a one-match ban during the quarter-final win over Korea Republic.
While wary of the threat the UAE will pose, Sanchez is adamant that his players are fully prepared for what is sure to be another stern test in front of a full house at Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.
“As I have said previously it is normal to be missing players at the stage of a competition,” he said.
“The key point for us is that everyone is ready and waiting to play and to help the team in the process. I am sure that the 11 that start will perform very well for us against a strong side that has shown great organisation, and which has talented players who can make a difference.”
“The match against the UAE is more difficult than the ones we have faced previously. As you progress in a tournament every game becomes harder and harder.
“We must try to play in the correct way in order to get the right result. My players are highly motivated and want to achieve the win which would help go through to the final.”