Qatar to be 'guest team' in European World Cup qualifiers
Qatar will be included as a guest team in European World Cup qualifying Group A as part of their preparation for hosting the 2022 tournament, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has announced.
As hosts, Qatar automatically qualifies for the 2022 World Cup and therefore has to rely on friendly games to get ready for the finals.
The UEFA on Tuesday said that Qatar has been placed as a "shadow" team in Group A, one of the five-team groups in UEFA's qualification process, and will play friendly games against whichever team has a free date on a given matchday, Reuters reported.
Group A includes Portugal, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg and Ireland. The venue for Qatar's "home" fixtures has not been confirmed but they will play games in Europe.
The Qatar games will not count in any way towards the qualification process and would be categorised as friendly matches.
The move mirrors the approach taken by France for the 2016 European Championship that they hosted.
First-ever Arab World Cup
In addition to hosting the 2022 tournament, late last month FIFA announced plans to launch a new pan-Arab football tournament which is also set to be played in Qatar.
The inaugural Arab World Cup will act as a test for Qatar's infrastructure and planning, 11 months before hosting football’s biggest global tournament.
The tournament is slated to begin in December next year and will feature 22 national teams from the Middle East and North Africa.
Algeria; Bahrain; Comoros; Djibouti; Egypt; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Oman; Palestine; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; Syria; Tunisia; the United Arab Emirates and Yemen were all confirmed to be taking part.
It will be the first major pan-Arab men’s football tournament since the Arab Nations Cup, which had been held on an irregular basis between 1963 and 2012.
The Gulf country already had a taste of hosting a major global tournament last December, when it hosted the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup - a tournament consisting of winners of club competitions from six different continents.