Friday, 1st February 2019, will be a red letter day for Qatar football after the national team managed to land their first ever Asian Cup title on the back of a scintillating 3-1 win over Japan in the final.
It highlights Qatar's elevation as one of the heavyweights of Asian football and sends a message to those who decried the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the Middle-East country on the grounds that the nation had little to no footballing history.
However, that is not the case. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organsiation responsible for delivering the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, has showcased Qatar's history in football at the 'Legacy Pavillion' in Doha's Al Bidda Tower.
It narrates the story of Qatar through football, from the sport’s early days in the Middle-Eastern nation to the SC’s preparations to host the showpiece event in 2022.
However, after this victory over Japan, Qatar and SC need not look to the past to show the world their footballing history. They can go into the 2022 World Cup as the champions of Asia, holding their heads deservedly high.
That's not all. They came third in the AFC U23 Championship in 2018 and had participated in the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup. And now they are the Asian champions. That certainly proves Qatar's credentials for a spot in the World Cup on merit alone, let alone the privilege of being the hosts.
Qatar have invested shrewdly and heavily in the national team and it has worked. The exposure they have received in addition to world-class training facilities have certainly made their mark.
Players like Asian Cup golden boot winner Almoez Ali, Akram Afif, Tarek Salman and Saad Al Sheeb (named the best goalkeeper of the tournament) are all products of a well-executed vision by the Qatar Football Association (QFA).
One only has to look at Qatar's performances in the tournament to realise that fact. It might seem as if Qatar punched above their weight to win the tournament. But a team does not consistently beat top Asian teams like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Korea, UAE and Japan with luck. It requires a well-drilled team oozing with ability and confidence.
This was no upset from Qatar. They won all their games and scored a whopping 18 goals in seven matches, while conceding just the solitary goal (Japan's consolation in the final). These are mind-boggling numbers!
The mentality of the team also deserves praise. Not once during the tournament have they flinched. They seemed unaffected by the hostile environment against UAE in the semifinals and when Japan ramped the pressure in the final at 2-1, they held their nerves and got a third goal.
No doubt that Qatar have proved a point in UAE and they could rise as high as 55th in the next edition of the FIFA rankings. The core of the squad is still very young and if they keep at this, this bunch of players can compete with the best teams at the World Cup.