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underdogs Meet the Qatari team attempting to create some of the biggest upsets in World Cup history


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Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez Bas cheers on his team during the Gold Cup semifinal match between the United States and Qatar on Thursday July 29th, 2021 at Q2 stadium in Austin,TX.  (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez Bas cheers on his team during the Gold Cup semifinal match between the United States and Qatar on Thursday July 29th, 2021 at Q2 stadium in Austin,TX. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez Bas cheers on his team during the Gold Cup semifinal match between the United States and Qatar on Thursday July 29th, 2021 at Q2 stadium in Austin,TX. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

QATAR head coach Felix Sanchez believes his squad are starting to appreciate what is required to perform on the international stage.

After impressive performances in a guest appearance in the Gold Cup competition against North and South American opponents this summer, the hosts of next year's World Cup are now preparing to test the scale of their progress when they take on Stephen Kenny's Ireland on Tuesday night in Dublin.

Qatar's run to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July saw them beat Honduras and El Salvador, before pushing the USA all the way in a tight semi-final.

Their World Cup plans have been enhanced by the games they have been handed against World Cup qualifying Group A rivals Portugal, Serbia, Ireland and Luxembourg, even though Qatar's matches against the European sides are classified as friendlies.

Now Sanchez has suggested his squad loaded with players from in the Qatari league need to take their game to the next level ahead of next year's once in a lifetime tournament on home soil.

"Clearly we have made some improvements in the last few years, but we need more," says Sanchez, whose side were beaten 3-0 by Portugal in Faro on Saturday night.

"It is all about making steps. The players in our squad have not played against top players like we will face with sides like Portugal and it is important that we understand what too expect at the World Cup.

"The challenge is big and we're feeling the responsibility but it's a big honour.

"We're motivated and looking forward to seeing how we can face this competition - the biggest in football.

"I'd like Qatar to progress as far as possible at the World Cup, but it's difficult to say how far, but the most important thing is to show the world that Qatar is able to compete against any national team. I believe that, rather than pressure, is the motivation."

Qatar's unexpected 2019 Asia Cup win was the clearest evidence that Sanchez is making an impact with a set of players that have been pieced together over an extended period of time by a vast scouting network.

Project 2022 needs to come to fruition a little over a year from now, with Sanchez already defying many doubters by remaining in his post as Qatar count down to the biggest moment in their sporting history.

There was always a feeling the Qatari authorities would hire a big-name coach to lead the team into the World Cup.

Yet Qatar's impressive rise up the FIFA rankings to 43, seven places ahead of Ireland, suggests they are starting to establish a foothold on the international stage.

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Taking the side on to a place that could see them win points at the World Cup finals may be a step too far for Sanchez.

Yet this former coach at Barcelona has never shied away from the scale of the task.

Sanchez star is on the rise and if his side live up to their ranking and beat Ireland in Dublin, Kenny's future as Ireland manager will again be under the spotlight.

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