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Qatar's Hassan Al-Haydos (left) and Akram Afif react after the World Cup group A defeat against Senegal, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar. It means Qatar have been eliminated from the tournament. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Qatar had looked forward to the FIFA World Cup for over a decade but within the space of six days it was all over for them. They may have become just the second team in the history of the World Cup to be eliminated from the tournament at the group stage after South Africa in 2010, but they can hold their heads up high.

They lost their opening two matches and now it is mathematically impossible for them to finish in the top two spots in Group A, even though they still have one match left to play.

With the Netherlands and Ecuador both winning their first games of the tournament and then drawing 1-1 against each other last night, they now each have four points and occupy the top two spots while Senegal are on three and in third after beating Qatar 3-1. Even if Qatar beats the Netherlands on Tuesday they will have no more than three points.

Hopes for the future

Most of their players lack competitive experience at this level and it was always going to be hard. But the fact that they were not embarrassed will give them hope for the future. Against Senegal they even managed to get on the scoresheet and for a while had them on the ropes only to concede a third late on. They deserve great credit for that performance and on another night perhaps the result would have been different.

The hosts were a long shot to get to The Round of 16 but their fans always held hope that they would somehow manage to do it. It is disappointing to see them falter at this early stage what with the country preparing for the tournament for the past 12 years, but there is no shame at all.

They made history by becoming the first country from the Middle East to host the showpiece tournament against all odds. In record time, they built world-class stadiums, state of the art transport systems and accommodation for the millions of fans that would head to the country. The national football team’s infrastructure was built for the tournament and they played in events such as the North American Gold Cup as guests to help prepare for the World Cup.

Big favour

Last night they were looking for a big favour from Ecuador to retain any hopes of remaining in the tournament. They needed them to beat the Netherlands but Gustavo Alfaro’s impressive side could only draw.

It means Qatar’s first appearance on the global stage is over and there will be nothing more than pride at stake when they face the Dutch.

The team can use this as a learning experience and with Asia getting eight spots for the next World Cup in 2026 they will feel confident of qualifying because the potential is there. After all, they won the 2019 Asian Cup. Now, the team should focus on building and improving and ensuring they make it for the showpiece event four years from now.