The host nation Qatar have become the first team to be eliminated from this year’s World Cup.
Their defeat to Senegal, coupled with the point that the Netherlands gained from drawing with Ecuador, means that it is now impossible for them to reach the knock-out stages of the tournament.
This is the first time they have ever played at the World Cup finals, and judging by the evidence so far, it may be the last for some time.
Opening day embarrassment
It was not meant to be this way, especially when they persuaded FIFA to bring forward their opening group game with Ecuador forward by a day so that they could have the global stage to themselves, after the glittering opening ceremony.
Instead, though, it was the South Americans who stole the show, taking a two goal lead into half-time and totally dominating proceedings.
Thousands of spectators – many, it later transpired had been paid to be there and who had received subsidised travel and accommodation – left at half-time, never to return, and those that did remain saw their team fail to muster a shot on target in the entire game.
After the match the universal opinion was that they were one of the worst teams to have appeared in a World Cup and that they owed their participation in the tournament solely to the fact that they were the hosts.
Senegal end their hops
The second match against Senegal was a must win match for both sides, the West Africans having lost their opening game two against the Netherlands. For much of the first half Qatar kept their opponents at bay, only for a defensive error before half-time gifting Senegal a goal.
When three minutes after half-time, Senegal doubled their lead, another disappointing night appeared to be in store.
However, perhaps because they had nothing left to lose, Qatar then began to play with no inhibition, forcing Senegal goalkeeper Édouard Mendy into action. He made a string of big saves, but was powerless to stop Mohammed Muntari scoring with a powerful header.
That attracted wild celebrations in the stadium that were on hand to witness it – there were thousands of empty seats – but the cheers did not last long.
Bamba Dieng scored a third goal for Senegal to leave the hosts on the brink of elimination, and there fate was sealed when the Netherlands and Ecuador drew in the other game later that night.
One final game
Qatar still have one final game at this World Cup, which is against the Netherlands on Tuesday. Whilst they can now approach that game in a relaxed mood, few expect them to get anything from the match (it would rank among the great upsets which have already taken place at this World Cup).
Instead the Dutch will expect to win it to seal their qualification, whilst Ecuador and Senegal will play each other to determine who will join them in the round of 16.
No football tradition in Qatar
Aside from the other human rights ramifications and the fact the intense summer heat forced the moving of this tournament to be moved from its traditional slot to the winter months, the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup has always been a bizarre one.
The country has no football tradition and, not only has it never qualified for a World Cup before, it has not even made it beyond the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup.
They are also the lowest ranked country ever to host a World Cup.
What football legacy will the World Cup leave?
In terms of any major sporting ornament, one of the key questions for organisers to consider is what sporting legacy will it leave in terms of inspiring future athletes and also leaving behind an infrastructure that the local community can benefit from in the future.
This is often a problematic issue. Many of the stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and 2014 World Cup in Brazil, have been allowed to fall into disrepair, with local taxpayers forced to partly foot the bill for years to come.
Whilst the financial cost may not be an issue in Qatar, it is difficult to foresee what they intend to do with the seven brand new stadiums specially constructed for the tournament (and which cost so much in human lives to construct).
If they cannot fill one stadium for a match involving their national team in the biggest tournament on earth, what use does a country with a population of just 2.9 million have for seven more of them?
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