Doha: Qatar must shoulder the pressure of defending their crown when they kick off the Asian Cup on home soil against Lebanon on Friday, captain Hassan Al Haydos warned.
The 2022 World Cup hosts won the continental title for the first time in UAE in 2019, stunning four-time champions Japan in the final.
But they gave the worst on-field performance of any World Cup host ever just over a year ago, losing all three group games and becoming the first team eliminated.
Raising the bar
Haydos said on Thursday that Qatar would have to deal with heightened expectations at the Asian Cup, starting with their Group A opener at Lusail Stadium.
“I think the 2019 generation has raised our level of expectation — we are always required to win in any competition we play in,” said the attacker, who has been capped more than 170 times.
“It raises the bar and gives us a challenge, but challenge is the real flavour of football.
“I hope the new generation of players can deal with this pressure.”
Qatar must also deal with a last-minute change of coach, with Spaniard Tintin Marquez taking over when Carlos Queiroz was fired last month.
Marquez spent five years coaching Al Wakrah in Qatar’s domestic league, having previously worked at the country’s Aspire Academy.
Familiarity makes the job easier
The former Espanyol coach said his familiarity with Qatar football “makes things easier”.
“It is a challenge, and not an easy challenge,” said the 62-year-old.
“But what distinguishes this journey is that I have worked in Qatar for a long time and I know the players and how they act on the pitch.”
Lebanon have qualified for their second straight Asian Cup and are also dealing with a last-minute change of coach.
Miodrag Radulovic of Montenegro, who also led the team in 2019, returned last month following the departure of Croatian Nikola Jurcevic.
Radulovic said Lebanon would “try to use our experience from the last tournament”.
“Yes, we have had a short time for preparation but I know this group very well,” he said.
“I believe in our talents and we will do our best to represent Lebanese football.”