Thursday 02 July 2020, 09:17

Almoez Ali: Qatar's ambitions growing by the day

  • Almoez Ali has had a string of successes with Qatar

  • Striker competed at U-20 World Cup and won Asian Cup, finishing top-scorer

  • Also took part in Copa America and hopes to shine at Qatar 2022

Almoez Ali’s career to date can be measured by some key footballing milestones.

After taking part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015™, the up-and-coming Qatari forward stole the show at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, where he led his country to their maiden continental title, finishing as tournament top scorer. He then had the rare privilege of playing at the legendary Maracana Stadium.

Despite achieving so much at such a young age, the sky is the limit for Ali. The 23-year old forward is determined to lead Qatar to further successes at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, where he hopes Al Annabi can go as far as possible at the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East. sat down with Ali to talk about his achievements to date, personal ambitions, the Qatar 2022 qualifiers and what the national team hope to achieve at their home tournament in two years’ time. Qatar had a fantastic campaign at the 2019 Asian Cup. What did you gain personally from that tournament?

Almoez Ali: We started out aiming to get past the quarter-finals. After the group stage, we overcame Iraq and Korea Republic to make the semi-finals, where we defeated the hosts. At that point we because more ambitious, and we went on to claim the title. It was such a great tournament. My personal goal was to be among the best strikers there. My experience should motivate young players to pursue their dreams, work hard and possibly do what I did by playing for their national team and achieving their goals.

After your stellar performance at the Asian Cup, you scored Qatar's first goal at the Copa America. How do you find playing against the South American giants and how has Qatar benefited from that tournament?

Honestly, I’m proud to have played at a big tournament like the Copa America. I remember we were behind in our first game (against Paraguay) when I scored to start our comeback (Qatar went on to draw 2-2). It was an honour for every Qatari player and for the national team as a whole to take part in this prestigious competition. We learned a lot from the Copa America and played well there. We’ve reached a level we never dreamed of; we played against a great team like Argentina. It’s true that we lost, but we overcame the fear inherent in playing against big teams, which will help us in the future.

Lionel Messi of Argentina is fouled by Almoez Ali of Qatar

You took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

World Cup tournaments are very different from continental ones, be they qualifying games or competitions like the Asian Cup, because they bring together the best teams in the world. It was a very tough tournament and we learned a lot. As young players, we were very enthusiastic and motivated. Things are different today. In 2022, we’ll play the World Cup in our home country, which means we won’t be intimidated. Moreover, we’ll have the confidence of playing on home soil as well as the massive support of our fans.

Half of the current Qatari squad participated in New Zealand. To what extent has the harmony between that group contributed to Al Annabi’s fine performances?

There is great harmony as a result of our participation in the toughest tournament for our age group in New Zealand. That event made us dream big, something that went unnoticed with us being so young at the time. No one realised quite how much these young players loved football and their national team, especially after reaching a World Cup. Our ambitions continue to grow, and we’re no longer intimidated by the prospect of playing big tournaments now that we have competed at the U-20 World Cup, won the Asian Cup and played the Copa America. All of this will ensure we play the 2022 World Cup without any fear.

Qatar are currently top of Group E in the Asian qualifiers for Qatar 2022. What are your ambitions for this campaign, especially considering the team are guaranteed a place in the finals as hosts?

We want to qualify for the [2023] Asian Cup as group winners. We played against some tough teams such as India, who gave us a hard time in Doha. We also had a hard-won victory against Oman. We think of the qualifiers as finals and, as defending champions, we want to make the tournament in China to prove that last year’s title was no fluke. We’re going to be a tough team to beat in the coming years.

Speaking of the FIFA World Cup, how do you see Qatar’s hosting of the tournament?

I can say that everyone who comes to Qatar will be surprised by what the country has done. People will be amazed by the world-class stadiums, such as the shell-shaped Al Janoub Stadium, which reflects the heritage of Al Wakra, a city known for fishing, and Al Bayt Stadium, which takes its name from bayt al sha'ar – tents historically used by nomadic people in the desert. They will also get to see the modern Khalifa International Stadium, and Al Rayyan Stadium with its glowing façade, as well as Al Thumama Stadium, which is an architectural masterpiece. Fans from all over the world will be impressed by the unique designs of the stadiums, which reflect the heritage of the Qatari people.

What will the team’s goals be when they host the World Cup?

Our goal is to make His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and all the Qatari people proud. We want to make everyone proud of this team and the generation of players who have achieved enormous successes. We have big ambitions, but I can’t talk about them now as they’re growing by the day. But I can promise you that we will spring some surprises and go as far as possible in the tournament.