Thursday, June 4, 2009

World Cup Fan-vs-Fan: Qatar - Australia

Two fans from very different football nations clash:

This Saturday in Doha, Australia need just a point to qualify for South Africa. The hosts Qatar need three points to keep their dreams alive. talked to Ahmed Ashry in Qatar and Australia's Con Stamocostas to get the lowdown on their respective teams...

Can Qatar defeat Australia?

Qatar - We don't have any option except to win. The problem is that Australia hasn’t conceded any goals yet. I hope the first one will be in Doha... to be frank it is very difficult to defeat such a big team, especially with our current situation when we lack confidence.

Australia - On previous form between the two teams, the answer is no. However, this is a World Cup qualifier and Qatar are still fighting for the third playoff spot. They need to beat or Australia at home or Japan away. So this may be the one to go for, looking at it from the Qatar point of view.

Australia have defeated Qatar easily in the past. Why?

Qatar - Because until now Qatar haven’t played as a team or as men. Unfortunately, we started the match with only one idea - that we will lose. It is a bad way to start any match.

Australia - Some pundits have said the Qataris have been intimidated by the big-name Socceroos players. During the last three games Australia have played Qatar, there has been too much space allowed for the Australian team to make passes and runs, and some of the defending by Qatar has been inadequate.

The truth is that the Socceroos are just better players than their Qatari counterparts. Save for the Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Quintana, none of the Qatar players have shown that they can match the Socceroos as a team or individually. Most of the Australian team are playing in the top leagues in Europe, and playing in top-quality European cup competitions - not forgetting that valuable experience of already playing in a World Cup. The gulf in class has been wide, save for a few minutes in each match where the Qatar team has been on top.

What does it mean for Australia to be so close to South Africa?

Australia - It means everything if you are a Socceroos supporter. As a fan you are part of the biggest football party in the world. Germany was amazing and with Australia so close to confirming their spot in South Africa, you just want to relive Germany all over again.

The nervous wait before the World Cup starts. Which teams are going to be in your group? The anticipation, anxiety and nervous feelings you get before the first game is played. The fact the whole world is watching with you just creates a special feeling.

What are the reasons for Qatar's bad form?

Qatar – The players don't believe in their abilities. Bruno Metsu is a great coach and we can't criticise him at all but the team believes that it is not good enough. When we get back our confidence we will play better

Are you satisfied with your coach?

Qatar – Although results have been poor, he will stay a great coach and I am sure if he had more time then he would get great results. You can't judge him from one or two matches or even on one competition. We have to create stability in coaching positions and Metsu is well known as a good coach so we should stick with him.

Australia - On the whole, yes. We are close to a World Cup. But the feeling I have is that I know that the players can do better. We saw it in Germany, they can play better than they are currently doing and some fans think it’s the coach.

This is the first time Australia has gone through a group qualifying since it became part of Asia. Some of the tactics like playing a lone and sometimes no striker, flooding the midfield, are just insurances of getting Australia to a World Cup. I would like to see a bit more attacking football, but happy that we are almost qualified.

Some people criticise Qatar's overseas players, what is your opinion?

Qatar – This is modern football. Why don’t they talk about other players in other countries such as Amauri or Pernia? These days, it is a practice to sign players to your team when there is possibility. What I really ask is, why do people only focus on Qatar? Tunisia, Germany, Italy and Spain, all of them have foreign players.

Australia - My opinion is that all countries do this sort of thing. Australia had a lot overseas-born players in the 1974 World Cup squad in Germany. Migrants have generally played football in Australia and a lot of the current Socceroos squad are migrant children. So it’s pretty hard to point the finger. On the other hand, FIFA must not allow a situation to exist where each team is filled with Brazilians - no-one wants to watch just Brazilians play at a World Cup. It’s the difference style of cultures that make it interesting.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Qatar - The team can't defend as a professional team but we have the money so we can be improve this quickly.

Australia - We are in winning form. The team is confident it can get the results it needs, even if it isn’t pretty at times. The midfield is strong and organised. Josh Kennedy is our main weapon up-front - even half fit he can score goals. Mark Schwarzer has been our best player, he organises the defence well. Bresciano, Kewell and Tim Cahill can get us goals but not all have been fit and in form. Scott McDonald - all of Australia will be relieved when the Mac strikes.

Our weakness is our depth and lack of genuine pace and flair. If Australia loses players through injury then the players replacing them have not been playing regularly for their clubs or are playing their football at a lower standard.

The team has no real speed merchants; Brett Holman is quick but that is about it. Beside Harry Kewell, Australia don’t have too many creative players either.

Who is your best player?

Qatar - Hussain Yasser is a very stylish football player.

Australia - Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, I cannot choose between both.

Can Qatar finish in third?

Qatar - Possible but very difficult. I think that we have a 30 per cent chance.

Australia - If Japan beat Uzbekistan and Australia beat Bahrain they can, but they also have to beat Australia at home or Japan away.

If not, what is next for Qatar?

Qatar - We have to be prepare well with Metsu for the next Asian Cup and then the 2014 World Cup. We have to start learning how to defend as a team and how to be focused during the match.

If Australia clinch qualification, what is next on the list?

Australia -
The next thing on the list is trying a more attacking formation in the last two games and in the friendlies that Australia will play leading into the finals. Perhaps experiment more by bringing in some players with speed like James Troisi and Nikita Rukavytsya and the forgotten David Williams and Nathan Burns. Maybe some A-League players like Newcastle Jet Ben Kantorovski and perhaps even Ljubo “the lip” Milicevic.

How do fans feel at the moment?

Qatar - We don't have big hopes, as our previous results were enough to destroy our dreams. It is football and if you think big you may find nothing.

Australia - The fans feel excited about qualifying for a World Cup again. FIFA recently reported that, “Due to a high demand for certain team-specific ticket series, these tickets are no longer available for the following countries: England, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Ireland and Netherlands.”

To be honest, Australia has never qualified for many World Cups, so I am not sure what the reaction will be when it happens. I hope there is dancing in the streets when that moment comes, even though it will be 4:00am in the morning. Everyone is excited about seeing the Socceroos play at the World Cup again.

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