Qatar November 26, 2022: It did not last long, Qatar’s participation in their own World Cup. Defeat by Senegal, and Ecuador ending all permutation possibility by drawing with the Netherlands, means the hosts matched England’s achievement in Brazil 2014: evicted within six days of kick-off. So £200 billion for this. It would have been a lot cheaper just to hire Roy Hodgson.
Still, at least the locals got a goal to cheer. A good one too, Mohammed Muntari thumping home a header when his team were two down. The ease with which he got between Senegal’s defenders will have given encouragement to Harry Kane and his colleagues if, as is possible, England face Senegal in the last 16.
But five minutes later Bamba Dieng hammered home a third for Senegal to restore the natural order.
So the Qataris are now obliged to face the next three weeks watching the rest of the world cavort across their homeland. Not least the sizeable army of guest workers, in their Brazil, Spain and Argentina shirts. That is perhaps the most telling thing about this World Cup: of the many countries they might follow, very few of the immigrant labour force seem to have latched on to Qatar.
One thing is for sure: all the pre-kick off optimism about how the Qataris were the most prepared team in World Cup history has proven to be the emptiest of hype.
So what now for the country and football? Whatever your feelings about the politics, it would be impossible to argue the delivery of the tournament has been anything other than first class.
They have proved they know how to get other people to build stadiums for them, too. Though what it does now with eight giant arenas who knows. But their eviction from the competition insists that, while their sovereign wealth fund might enable them to buy the grandest of European clubs, this is no football hotbed. If this is how they perform when everything is going for them, it is hard to imagine we will ever see a Qatar team qualify for someone else’s World Cup. Let’s just hope they kept the receipt.