• Qatar ahead Akram Afif talks in regards to the upcoming 2019 AFC Asian Cup
  • 22-year-old made his title on the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship
  • Afif: “We’re excited to host 2022 World Cup and my purpose is to participate”

For the folks of Qatar, December was a particular month. To start with, the countdown to the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ started in earnest, with 4 years to go earlier than the nation hosts the worldwide showcase. That coincided with the unveiling of the design for Lusail Stadium, a proposed venue for the event’s Opening Match and Closing. And Qatar additionally celebrated its Nationwide Day on 18 December – the date when the 2022 World Cup will attain its climax.

Now the nation’s soccer followers have switched their focus to the nationwide crew as they put together for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The upcoming event may play a key position in shaping Qatar’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, which implies a variety of key gamers can be beneath the highlight.

Chief amongst them is Akram Afif. The gifted ahead, who turned 22 in November, is the title on all people’s lips, and never solely as a result of he’s the primary Qatari to have appeared in Spain’s La Liga. He additionally helped Qatar clinch the Asian U-19 title in 2014 and e book their place on the FIFA U-20 World Cup the next yr. Extra just lately, Afif turned heads with Al Sadd within the AFC Champions League final time period and has impressed within the home league this season.


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All eyes can be on Afif as soon as once more as Al-Annabi (the Maroons) goal glory on the Asian Cup. We caught up with him forward of Asia’s continental finals in United Arab Emirates.

FIFA.com: The 2019 AFC Asian Cup is sort of prepared for kick-off. How do you fee Qatar’s probabilities within the competitors?
Akram Afif
: Everybody is aware of how tough these tournaments are. Each crew will attempt to win the title. We’re not wanting enthusiasm and the need to compete fiercely. We wish to go so far as doable. Our preparations have been greater than glorious. We have performed a variety of spectacular video games towards groups with numerous enjoying types previously few months. That is helped us construct our expertise, enhance our bodily health and understanding, and check a variety of tactical plans. I consider we’re able to translate all that on to the pitch.

You have got been drawn in Group E with Lebanon, Korea DPR and Saudi Arabia. How do you anticipate these video games to unfold?
None of these are straightforward groups since they’ve all made it to the finals. Our first sport can be towards Lebanon and normally the opening matches are robust as both sides is making an attempt to keep away from defeat. However we’ll insist on going for all three factors as a result of that is the important thing to additional progress. Within the second sport, we’ll be up towards Korea DPR, a crew with an east-Asian soccer model and we’ve an concept about the best way to play towards them. The third sport can be towards Saudi Arabia, who featured on the World Cup final summer time and purchased appreciable expertise. The Saudi gamers have additionally developed their expertise additional within the home league this season. We’ll take every sport because it comes and play the 90 minutes of each match with a view to qualifying. Then we’ll see what we do within the subsequent rounds.

This can be your first main event with the senior nationwide crew. What are your private ambitions?
I am undoubtedly enthusiastic about sporting the Qatar shirt and experiencing this nice honour. From day one, I dreamed about collaborating in tournaments like this. I bear in mind being a supporter of the crew through the 2011 finals in Qatar. Eight years later, my dream is coming true. I hope I can meet the expectations of the followers and provides them the happiness they deserve. I am not keen on private accolades. I am utterly centered on serving my crew so we are able to all obtain our final purpose of elevating Qatar’s soccer profile.

You have got impressed this season with each the nationwide crew and Al Sadd. Do you are feeling any private strain and do you anticipate the opposite groups to single you out?
I’ve reached this stage due to arduous work and perseverance with each membership and nationwide crew. However the credit score primarily goes to the assist of my team-mates and the way we have applied the coach’s directions, in addition to our teamwork and perception that the crew should at all times come first. So, personally, I do not worry strain, and if there’s strain I am going to flip it right into a optimistic. If I discover myself beneath man-to-man strain, that will not be a giant deal as I am not the one participant within the crew. My team-mates are able to compensating for that in their very own positions. We all know the coach has efficient options to all these tactical points. I am totally satisfied that no single participant on the earth can do the job of an entire crew. Soccer is a sport of teamwork.

You shone with the youth crew and received the U-19 Asian title. How does that victory encourage you and the remainder of the crew?
That event is definitely unforgettable. As a aspect, we outperformed everybody. We have been armed with a spirit of teamwork, and our main purpose was to place Qatar on the continental soccer map and qualify for the U-20 World Cup. After reaching that, we centered on clinching the title. I am going to always remember the day of the ultimate, when the youth crew received its first trophy. What makes me particularly proud is that I scored the winner towards Korea DPR. I hope I am going to get to have the identical expertise with my team-mates within the senior aspect. With resolve and dedication, we are able to obtain that.

You made historical past once you grew to become the primary Qatari to play in La Liga. How would you describe that have?
After the U-20 World Cup in 2015, I acquired a suggestion from Eupen in Belgium. I had the ambition of enjoying in Europe as a result of that is the traditional route for growth. I believe I did effectively there, scoring eight targets in 26 appearances. The next season, I acquired a suggestion from Villarreal in Spain. I could not have turned down that chance. I moved there and began a brand new expertise in my profession. Everybody is aware of what La Liga means. For me, each coaching session there was a brand new lesson. I used to be then loaned to Sporting Gijon, and I had an opportunity to function in video games. I used to be then loaned to Eupen once more final season and after that, I acquired a suggestion from Al Sadd. I am pleased with what I am doing right here this season. I hope I am going to be capable to assist the membership regain the league title and different trophies, particularly after we missed out on the Champions League title. I am nonetheless a Villarreal participant, and I am going to see how issues develop on the finish of the season.

The nationwide crew is making ready for the 2022 World Cup. How do you see the following stage creating?
We’re all very enthusiastic, and everybody needs to have the honour of enjoying on this historic World Cup for the Qataris and each Arab. We all know that the Qatari Soccer Affiliation will organise a sequence of coaching camps and worldwide video games over the following 4 years to boost our stage in order that we’ll be totally prepared. In the summertime, we’ll take part within the 2019 Copa America. That’ll definitely be an thrilling expertise. Taking part in towards historic groups and on Brazilian pitches will give us international expertise, and from that time we’ll construct for the long run.

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