Big question hanging over everything here: Can you buy everything? The rich Qataris now have this World Cup, they have the stadiums. They also have a mall with a replica of Venice’s canal system inside, including several gondoliers, but they’re not from Venice, they’re obviously from Southeast Asia, which is where a lot of those who toil here to make things work come from. What they don’t have in Qatar: a competitive national team.
In the opening match of the World Cup, Qatar, affectionately known by some as “the wine reds,” played Ecuador, and it was a game that Franz Beckenbauer, the old emperor, would have said with some justification: “A bit like Obergiesing vs. Untergiesing.” Ecuador won 2-0 and the devastating overall impression was underscored by the fact that the assembled men in their Thawb robes packed up and moved on well before the game was over, and by the final whistle the players were almost among themselves.
Again it shows what distinguishes this host team: they are overwhelmed
In the meantime, the World Cup is entering the next round. In the second attempt, the Weinroten challenged the team from Senegal, which in turn had been equal to the Dutch (0:2) in their debut game for a long time. And behind the question of whether you can buy everything, there is always a certain skepticism about the results. Some kind of swindling: That would be exactly what this World Cup could use now. For Qatar, however, it was a question of avoiding a complete disgrace; most recently, in 2010, South Africa, a host country of the World Cup, was out in the group phase.
It all started relatively tentatively, and anyone who thought the referee would support and entertain the Qataris with penalties was reassured in the 34th minute. Senegalese Ismaila Sarr kicked Akram Afif in the penalty area, Spain’s referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz allowed the ball to continue, although a penalty would not have been disputed in the scene and would have been justified.
Senegal, of course weakened by the loss of star player Sadio Mané, still controlled the game, the lead in the first half was deserved, and what characterizes this host team again shows: they are overwhelmed, the level of a World Cup is three numbers up high. Boualem Khoukhi didn’t hit the ball properly in the centre, Boulaye Dia thanked him and scored to make it 1-0 (41′). Shortly after the break, Senegal followed up, Ismail Jakobs corner, Famara Diédhiou with a header, which was not particularly disturbed.
Something still happens, and sometimes something even happens for eternity
The Africans then managed to make it 2-0, Senegal keeper Édouard Mendy reflexively extended his arm twice to prevent things from getting worse, and then, in the 78th minute, the Qatari actually played a remarkable attack, their best of the whole tournament. A wide diagonal ball from his own half, Ismael Mohammad made his way, crossed in from the right and Muntari headed the ball into the goal. Mohammed Muntari, recent substitute, the first-ever goalscorer in Qatar’s World Cup history, which will remain short and painful. In the last group game, the Dutch are waiting, whose coach Louis van Gaal leaves no doubt that he wants to become world champion at the end of his career.
So: embarrassment not averted, but cushioned a bit. Senegal later upped the ante with Bamba Dieng, 3-1, but they will be talking about their own goal for a long time in the emirate, when the Al-Thumama Stadium trembled and everyone in Thawb guise recognized that it can be worth staying a little longer in one of these beautiful new stadiums. Something still happens, and sometimes something even happens for eternity.