Muscat – Fans in Oman have pinned high hopes on an Arab team qualifying for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16. With Saudi Arabia and Morocco upsetting tournament favourites Argentina and second-ranked Belgium respectively, citizens and residents are hopeful of these teams making a mark.
With the World Cup being held in the Arab world for the first time, the prospect of one Arab team – Saudi Arabia, Tunisia or Morocco – advancing into the Round of 16 is very exciting for fans in Oman.
Qatar’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ecuador in the tournament opener and losing to Senegal 1-3 may have disappointed fans, but good performances by Saudi Arabia and Morocco have shown that anything is possible.
Saudi Arabia has been in the spotlight since its stunning 2-1 comeback win over Argentina, and plenty has been said about the game but when the football world was talking about Saudi Arabia’s Salem al Dawsari rather than Lionel Messi, that was new. But the team rankings in the tournament became complicated for the Saudi team after losing to Poland 2-0.
Fadhel al Mazruii, Omani sports analyst, who is in Qatar to support the Arab teams, said, “I am in Doha as a fan and to support the Arab teams. We have high hopes of the Saudi and Moroccan teams storming into the Round of 16.”
He added, “Saudi Arabia has good players, a good coach and are prepared both physically and mentally. For the region as a whole however, this tournament is already looking very different. The Saudis have shown the way and are leading a resurgent Arab football world.”
Mazruii said Morocco has done well this World Cup. It won its first World Cup match since 1998 – and its third ever – securing a sensational 2-0 victory over heavyweights Belgium to ensure that it can qualify for the knockout stage for the second time in its history.
A Moroccan fan said the team is placed in a strong group. “Our team is great but the group we are in is so strong. We have to fight it out. There is still a chance,” said Abdul Samad, a Moroccan teacher.
While Qatar has already exited the tournament, Tunisia still has a chance. “It is so sad to see Qatar failing to make it to the next round,” said Salim Hameed, an Omani youth who has been in Qatar since the beginning of the tournament. “It is a good team and I am disappointed they did not make it. I would have loved to see it advance to the next stage because it is the first time the World Cup is being played in the region with Qatar as host. However, I would like to commend Qatar for being a great host.”
Siham Abdul Hakim, a Tunisian working in Oman, said, “Our team played well but its opponents were stronger. It will be sad to exit the World Cup so early but this is because of lack of strong strikers. Also, our defence is not so good. I am sad but hope my team plays well in the future.”