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One game at a time, says Qatar's Sanchez

Friday, December 28, 2018
FELIX SANCHEZ-Qatar U23 coach

Doha: Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez has stressed he will adopt a ‘one game at a time’ approach as his team prepare to launch their challenge for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 title next month.

The Spaniard, whose side have been drawn to face Lebanon, DPR Korea and three-time winners Saudi Arabia in Group E, will kick off their campaign in Al Ain on January 9 against the Lebanese and Sanchez is refusing to look beyond the meeting at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

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"Right now we are only looking at the first match,” he said. “We respect our competitors but we are aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

“We will be focusing on one game at a time. All the teams offer a different challenge. We are well aware of our challenges and how we have to tackle them.”

The two-time AFC Asian Cup quarter-finalists suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Algeria in their latest warm-up game in Doha on Thursday, with the loss the team’s first in five games.

Qatar have notched up wins over Kyrgyz Republic and Jordan this month as they fine-tune their preparations, while a draw with Iceland and a surprise win over Switzerland in November have shown the strides being made by Sanchez and his team in the build-up to the Finals.

"We played the friendly matches to help the players get into the right frame of mind and to assist the players get match practice,” said Sanchez.

“We have got to see the fitness levels of our players and their overall form (in the friendly matches). Playing matches always help the players. The players have shown their commitment on the pitch.

“I was pleased with the win over Switzerland and we fought hard against Iceland. We will go step-by-step in the Asian Cup. We will be playing to win, just like any other side. We will be aiming for maximum points from every game. The players believe in themselves.”

Qatar’s status as host nation for the next edition of the FIFA World Cup will no doubt increase the scrutiny of the country’s performances in the UAE in January as the clock ticks ever closer to kick off in 2022.

And while the FIFA World Cup looms in the distance, Sanchez stresses his team are looking to prove their status among the best teams in Asia after notching up a third place finish at the AFC U23 Championship China 2018 in January (pictured above).

“The AFC Asian Cup is one of the titles we are looking for and the players have prepared well,” he said. “It’s a great challenge, but we have a bunch of very talented players.

“Our long-term goal, of course, is to be ready to fight at home at the World Cup in 2022, and playing at the Copa America next year is also part of that.

“Doing well at the AFC Asian Cup is a personal challenge, especially after we did so well at the AFC U23 Championship in China at the start of the year.

"The Asian Cup is an event for us to show where we stand in Asia.”

Photos: AFC, AFP

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