Qatar coach Felix Sanchez has said his side should not be labeled a “failure and disappointment” after losing its second group game against Senegal, a result that knocked the World Cup hosts out of the tournament.
After losing their opener against Ecuador, Qatar finally managed to score a goal in the tournament, but fell to a 3-1 loss to the African side, leaving them bottom of Group A with no points.
Qatar are the reigning Asian champions, but are playing in their first World Cup.
“I think we played a good game. When you come here, you have to know where you come from [as a country]. Whether this is a failure and disappointment depends on expectations,” Sanchez told reporters on Saturday.
“Our goal was to be competitive… We worked for so many months to get a good performance. But sometimes things don’t go the way you expect. It also depends on the performance of the opponents. We were not playing at our highest level. We were competitive, but we didn’t improve.”
With a final match against group favorites Netherlands on the horizon, Qatar is in danger of becoming the first World Cup host to fail to win a single match.
“We are aware of how tough this competition is. We wanted to go far, but we know that as a country we had limitations,” Sanchez added.
“It is a small country, not a very large population. The local league is not very competitive. It’s our first time at the World Cup. If we can join again, that would be great. It is always useful to gain more experience.”
When asked if the team had reached the end of a cycle, Sanchez disagreed, but admitted there could be changes when they defend their Asian Cup crown next year.
“We have some young players and more experienced players… Our goal is very clear, we will have a generation change. Some players will leave, others will come,” he said.
“Maybe next year we will have new players in the Asian Cup, some players can’t play their best for so long, but it’s not the end of a cycle.”
Sanchez added that leaving the World Cup early will not be fatal for the country’s football development.
“The World Cup will end, but football will continue here,” said the Spaniard, who led Qatar to the 2019 Asian Cup title. “It is a football country and they want to continue to develop young talent so that they can move on to senior level. We can continue to compete in Asia within our constraints.
“By doing that, we get more experience and we can play in more leagues like this.”