Doha (Qatar) (AFP) – Qatar’s national team coach Felix Sanchez said Wednesday he would welcome the chance for the 2022 World Cup hosts playing in next year’s Copa America in Brazil.
Amid growing speculation that wealthy Middle Eastern emirate will be invited to take part in the South American tournament, Sanchez said the possibility of playing against some of the world’s best teams was “very exciting”.
“I think if this will be the case, it will be a great experience to face the top international teams in the world,” Sanchez told AFP on the sidelines of a cup draw ceremony in Doha.
He added: “It will be good for them to face these types of games, that’s what they are going to face in 2022.”
According to South American media reports, Qatar is among a number of nations invited to take part in the 2019 Copa America next June and July.
China, Japan, Mexico and two other countries could also join South American giants including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, to push tournament numbers up to 16.
South American governing body CONMEBOL announced last month that three teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), in which Qatar plays, will be invited along with three other nations from either the rest of the Americas or the Caribbean.
Eight different non-South American countries have been invited to play in previous Copa Americas.
Officials in the Gulf are remaining characteristically tight-lipped, claiming they are waiting for an official invitation before making any announcement.
Earlier this week, Ivan Bravo, the director of the Qatari government-funded sports scouting and training centre Aspire Academy, was forced to “clarify” statements he made apparently suggesting the 2022 hosts would definitely take part.
It is clear though that Qatar needs competitive games before 2022.
Ranked 101st in the world, Qatar is desperate to develop a team capable of competing on the world stage in four years’ time.
“If we have a chance to play against teams from South America, we need to start to do it because for the development of the players to be ready in 2022, it’s going to be good,” said Spaniard Sanchez.
He took over the national side last year, the ninth different coach in 10 years, after Qatar failed to reach this year’s Russia World Cup finals.