Qatar face becoming the first host nation to exit a World Cup group stage after just two games as a result of their 3-1 defeat to Senegal – only an Ecuador win over the Netherlands later on will keep them alive until the third round of Group A fixtures.
Senegal didn’t play particularly well but went into a 2-0 lead through Boulaye Dia and Famara Diehiou. Qatar massively improved in the final half hour and found a historic goal through Mohammed Muntari, before Bamba Dieng sealed it for the west Africans.
Senegal controlled most of the ball without ever really making the most of it, especially with Qatar switching goalkeepers from their opening game and putting faith in Meshaal Barsham between the sticks instead – his older brother is current Olympic high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Barsham had a few collections or punches to perform, often making them look more spectacular than they needed to be. But real chances forged from genuine skill, creativity or incisive team moves were not forthcoming.
Qatar, meanwhile, looked pretty disjointed in their play. That being said, on a rare meaningful attack in the first half Akram Afif was stunned at not being awarded a penalty when clumsily bundled over from behind by Ismaila Sarr. He had a strong case, yet there wasn’t even a proper VAR check.
Dia’s first half strike kind of summed it up for Qatar. Boualem Khoukhi’s botched clearance, which should have been a simple swing of the leg, ended up presented the ball on a plate to Dia. His first-time finish beat Barsham at the near post.
Qatar’s defending was statuesque when Senegal scored their second soon after half-time. Nobody except Diedhiou seemed to move when Ismail Jakobs sent a corner into the box and the Alanyaspor striker scored a free header at the near post.
The hosts clearly did post a threat at set-pieces and had been guilty of not playing to their strengths. But then when they did send the ball into the box, it caused problems for Senegal. A better finish from centre-back Abdelkarim Hassan could have got them back into it – instead it hit a teammate.
Not long after, Hassan had a much more threatening attempt from distance that only narrowly missed the target and had Edouard Mendy worried. Then came Qatar’s first shot on target of the World Cup, over an hour into this, their second game. Mendy was equal to Almoez Ali’s low effort.
Although the quality was still lacking, at least Qatar seemed determined not to exit the tournament with a whimper and picked up the tempo. There had been a reluctance to commit players forward, but when wing-back Ismaeel Mohammad decided to make a break for it into the box, he met the ball at the far post and forced an outstanding save from Mendy.
It had taken Qatar over 150 minutes plus who knows how much stoppage time to have a shot on target in this World Cup, yet two had suddenly come along at once.
Even more Qatar pressure followed as Mendy blocked a potential own goal following a ricochet from Khoukhi’s attempted ball across the six-yard box. When Mohammad got forward down the right again, his inviting cross into the box was met superbly by Muntari to create a bit of history for Qatar.
It begged the question why weren’t they doing that when it was still 0-0 in this one? Or even against Ecuador last time out?
Senegal were starting to appear vulnerable to a potential comeback but gave themselves the breathing room they needed with 84 minutes on the clock. Substitutes combined as Iliman Ndiaye fed Dieng from the right and it was clinical finish from about eight yards out.