football

Qatar beaten by Northern Irish club Linfield just months before hosting World Cup


Less than five months before the World Cup commences in Qatar, the host nation fell to an eye-catching friendly defeat against Northern Irish champions Linfield

Qatar fell to a friendly defeat on Tuesday against Linfield

World Cup hosts Qatar suffered a defeat against Northern Ireland champions Linfield in a pre-season friendly, less than six months from the tournament getting underway in the Middle East.

Qatar, hosts of this year’s finals which are being held in November and December, had lost just one of their last nine internationals. That was a run of results which had seen them defeat Bulgaria, oust Egypt in a penalty shootout and hold Slovenia to a scoreless draw.

However, they were downed by the Blues in a pre-season clash in Marbella – where both sides have been based over the past week during their training schedules. Belfast-based side Linfield are preparing for their Champions League qualification match against Welsh champions The New Saints.

The only goal of the game against Qatar arrived in the first half as Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Chris McKee found the back of the net in the 19 th minute. McKee joined the Blues permanently this summer after spending the second half of last season on loan at Scottish club Rangers.

While the result of pre-season friendlies should be taken with a pinch of salt, it was an eye-catching defeat for the nation who are ranked 51st in FIFA’s World Rankings, three places above Northern Ireland and higher than the likes of Greece, Finland, Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was a blow to Qatar’s preparations for the World Cup, with their campaign beginning against South American nation on 21 November. The Middle Eastern nation – who have never previously participated in a World Cup tournament – were seeded in Pot One for the draw due to them hosting the competition but face a tough task to qualify for the Round of 16 as the Netherlands and African champions Senegal have been pitted in their group.

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David Healy – former of Man Utd, Preston, Leeds and Fulham – is manager of Linfield
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Image:

Harold Cunningham – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Qatar fielded a hugely experienced side against Linfield, including captain Hassan Al-Haydos, Abdelkarim Hassan and Karim Boudiaf who have amassed 384 caps between them. Indeed, Qatar boss Felix Sanchez fielded seven players who participated in their scoreless draw against Slovenia in March.

Linfield – managed by Northern Ireland’s record international goalscorer David Healy – face The New Saints of Wales over two legs in the first qualifying round of the Champions League on July 5 and 13. The Blues have won four consecutive Irish Premiership titles and their 56 domestic league titles is a world record.

It is the fourth time that Linfield had played an international team in a friendly match. They lost 2-0 against East Germany in Belfast in 1984 and were edged out 1-0 in the Northern Irish capital six years later by Argentina, who were preparing for the 1990 World Cup. Linfield defeated Kenya 1-0 in September 2002.

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