Doha: AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 champions Qatar are aiming to put out a strong performance in the 2019 Copa America, says head coach Felix Sanchez.
Qatar will become the first West Asian team to participate in the Copa America, and will be joined by AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 runners-up Japan, as the Samurai Blue return to the tournament for the first since their inaugural appearance in 1999.
“We are looking forward to the event. Our target is to play to our best. It will be a great experience and a great challenge,” said Sanchez, whose contract has been extended till the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.
“After the tournament we will be a better team. Our players are very competitive. We saw that at the Asian Cup. They are confident. We are committed to giving our best. Let’s see what stage we are at since it has been a long season. We have great motivation to play a great tournament.”
Qatar are in Group B of the Copa America, where they will face 14-time champions Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay, in the June 14-July 7 tournament.
Despite some formidable opponents lying in wait, a confident Sanchez is looking forward to taking on the likes of Argentina to further improve his team.
“There are strong sides like Argentina and Paraguay. There are World Cup winning sides in that competition. Most of the sides are top 50. It will be hard but that’s what we want to do - we want to play against them and learn.
"We need to arrive and compete well. It will be physically tough. We have to forget the Asian Cup triumph. It is not easy at this level. For sure it is a huge challenge,” Sanchez said to local media.
Qatar displayed some impressive performances in the AFC Asian Cup, with players like Almoez Ali - who now holds the record of most goals scored in the AFC Asian Cup, Akram Afif and Bassam Al Rawi showing great maturity and Sanchez believes they are hungry to prove themselves against stronger teams.
“I am extremely happy with the squad. We have a number of stars, not one, who could do well in Brazil also. I hope these players showcase themselves well. I know they will be looked at by top teams, by big clubs. Most of the players are young and they want to get experience,” he said.
“We are willing to learn. It has been a long season for the players. We played the Asian Cup followed by the AFC Champions League apart from the regular football that started in August last year. But we know we have to arrive in good condition at Copa America. The players have the motivation to do well.”
Qatar have begun preparations for the Copa America with a boot camp now underway, with more players expected to join the squad, before continuing their training in the United States and a series of friendlies, including against five-time world champions Brazil on June 5.
“It will be a short training camp before we travel to the US for some days and then to Brazil. We play Brazil on June 5. That will be our first game on the Brazil trip. Then on June 9, we will play a Brazilian club side. This will allow us to test the players."
قائمة المنتخب الوطني المشارك في معسكر كوبا أمريكا. #كوبا_أميركا pic.twitter.com/06quK8TtQt
— الاتحاد القطري لكرة القدم 🇶🇦 (@QFA) May 22, 2019
Sanchez, however, has cautioned the fans to not expect too much from Qatar in the Copa America.
“We are happy with what we did in the Asian Cup. We are proud to see Qatar fans were so happy. There was a big support which helps us to be better. But we are appearing in Copa America for the first time. We are not used to playing against South American sides."
The Spaniard has called up 40 players for the boot camp but only 23 will make the squad for Qatar's Copa America challenge, with injuries to some players a concern.