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DOHA : With brilliant games, superb goals and shock results, the Qatar World Cup has been one of the most entertaining, but Sunday’s end of the tournament marks a crossroads for the hosts as they ponder where to go from here.

Since being awarded the tournament in 2010 and thereby gaining a berth as hosts, Qatar’s focus has been on creating a side worthy of appearing on the world stage. With that out of the way, the next stage in their football development kicks off.

“The objective is to develop the league, they want to raise up the level a little bit more, to be a transfer point between major and minor leagues,” Qatar-based soccer coach Sergi Angulo Lerin told Reuters.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has previously worked in Sweden and France, running academies for La Liga club Espanyol and coaching local sides, and he moved to Qatar to take up a role as assistant coach and analyst at Al Shamal, who play in the top-flight Qatar Stars League.

“They have the money, they have the structure, they have everything, they can do it,” Lerin said.

Having spent 18 months working there prior to the World Cup, Lerin says the Qatari team did not reach its potential at the tournament, despite 12 years of preparations during which no expense was spared.

He said coaches from across the 12-team domestic league shared information and analysed games to help the Qatari national side prepare for their World Cup group games against Ecuador, Senegal and Netherlands, all of which they lost.

“The level of Qatar that we have seen in the World Cup is not the real level. When this project started they were 102 in the world (rankings), now they are 50 and they are champions of Asia, we can’t forget that,” he said.

‘EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE’

“If they want to get to the World Cup in four years time, they still have to continue to develop Qatari players, but I think we don’t know what will really happen, because Qatar is a country where everything can change in one day.”

With around 300,000 citizens, the pool of players Qatar can draw from is miniscule compared to the likes of finalists Argentina and France, and several players that represented the country at the World Cup were born abroad.

Lerin points to talent on its own not being enough and suggested that the wealth enjoyed by Qatari citizens is a drawback, as young people may not be prepared to make the sacrifices required to make it to the top level of the game.

“(Cristiano) Ronaldo had to work, work, work to make it. You need to develop these players, these Qataris in the right way, but we will see what happens after the World Cup,” he said.

Acknowledging the difficulty in developing the sport in a wealthy but small nation, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said that his side never had the objective of making the knockout stage, and that qualifying for future World Cups was the goal.

With that in mind, the Qatar Stars League will start again on Thursday, four days after the World Cup final, with Lerin’s Al Shamal in action against Al Wakrah on Friday.

“I think it will be difficult for them to play in another World Cup, really difficult, but at the same time now the rules of the World Cup are changing and there are more teams,” Lerin explained.

“I think now, with the new rules, they have a chance, but it will be difficult.”

 

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