Qatar face Ecuador in in­ter­na­tional friendly to­day

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Sports Re­porter

Coach Felix Sanchez will hope Qatar can con­tinue its good run in in­ter­na­tional friendlies as they host Ecuador at the Jas­sim Bin Ha­mad Sta­dium to­day. In the two friendlies held in Septem­ber at home, Qatar had de­feated China and Pales­tine.

Ecuador will pose a big­ger chal­lenge to Qatar but Sanchez is hop­ing they can snatch an­other morale-boost­ing win in the build-up to the pres­ti­gious Asian Cup early next year. Af­ter Ecuador’s match, Qatar will travel to Tashkent to face Uzbek­istan in Tashkent on Oc­to­ber 16.

Sanchez has an­nounced a bal­anced team com­bin­ing youth and ex­pe­ri­ence for the friendlies. The Spa­niard has said Qatar’s prepa­ra­tions for the Asian Cup were con­tin­u­ing apace and the friendlies would give him a clearer pic­ture as to the make-up of the squad for the con­ti­nen­tal event.

“The Asian Cup is a very im­por­tant tour­na­ment for us. We want to be com­pet­i­tive in the tour­na­ment and show our ri­vals what we are ca­pa­ble of,” Sanchez had said last week. “Ob­vi­ously we want to have our best play­ers in the squad for the Asian Cup and the friendlies are a great op­por­tu­nity for us to test our­selves,” he added.

Ecuador, who missed out on qual­i­fy­ing for Rus­sia World Cup ear­lier this year, are phys­i­cally strong, which will pose a chal­lenge to Qatar play­ers. But Sanchez is hop­ing his men can raise their level against the South Amer­i­cans.

Qatar are also sched­uled to meet Switzer­land and Ice­land in friendlies in Novem­ber, and pos­si­bly also Brazil and Iran in March in the build-up to the Copa Amer­ica in which Al Annabi would be par­tic­i­pat­ing for the first time.

Mean­while, Ecuador’s head coach Her­nan Dario Gomez has re­called Car­los Gruezo but there is no place on the ros­ter for Manch­ester United cap­tain An­to­nio Va­len­cia. Af­ter fac­ing Qatar to­day, Ecuador head to Oman for an­other friendly.

Gruezo played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup as a 19-year-old, hav­ing only de­buted for his na­tion a month be­fore the tour­na­ment in Brazil. Gruezo’s time with La Tri has not been as pro­duc­tive re­cently. This will be his first callup in a year, since a 2-0 de­feat to Brazil in Septem­ber 2017 that saw the 23-year-old fail to make it off the bench. His last ap­pear­ance came in Septem­ber 2016 in a 1-2 loss to Peru.

Gomez re­turned to the Ecuador side he coached be­tween 1999 and 2004, hav­ing led Panama to this year’s World Cup in Rus­sia.

Qatar play­ers take part in a train­ing ses­sion at Al Sadd Sports Club on the eve of the in­ter­na­tional friendly against Ecuador yes­ter­day.

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