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Taking the world by storm: Record-setting Ali to lead Qatar at 2022 FIFA World Cup

When Qatar make its debut at the FIFA World Cup in the opening match of the 2022 edition, few people will be more emotional than Almoez Ali Zainalabedeen Mohamed Abdulla. Widely known as Almoez Ali, the Sudanese-born Qatari striker, who is the joint all-time top scorer of the Asian side, will see his amazing journey start a new chapter.

Born in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, from a Sudanese father and a Qatari mother, Ali is regarded as one of the best-ever players who featured for Qatar in its history, after his career took plenty of twists and turns.

Aged 7, he left Sudan to join his father, who was working in Qatar, for the prospect of a better life. Immediately, he took up football and joined the Aspire Academy, the state-of-the-art institution that was founded in 2004 and tried to reform the sport in the Middle East country.

He rose to stardom in the younger age categories, cementing his status as a bonafide future star in the U19 and U23 Qatar teams, winning the AFC Asian Cup with the former side in 2014.

“In Aspire they taught us everything, more than anything to work hard to be professional players,” said Ali after his inconspicuous rise to stardom. His stock has been growing fast until his performance in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, where he lifted Qatar to the trophy after scoring nine goals in the tournament, cemented his status as a cult hero.

In that tournament, where Qatar announced itself as an emerging powerhouse in Asian football, Ali was the Golden Boot and was also named the MVP of the tournament, recognizing his performances and contribution. He was also the first player to score nine goals in the AFC Asian Cup, an excellent performance for a striker whose experience was quite limited.

He played for Qatari side Lekhwiya before signing for KAS Eupen in Belgium, spent a year at Austrian side LASK Linz and then a few months at Spanish side Cultural Leonesa. Both Eupen and Leonesa are owned by Qatari companies. Since 2016, he returned to Qatar and has been featured as the captain of Al-Dusail, a three-time champion in the domestic league.

However, he did not fully delivered at club level, with strikers like Michael Olunga and Mario Mandzukic joining the team and hampering Ali’s performances in the past seasons. Yet for the national team, Ali is an integrant.

His performances earned him rave reviews from top coaches, like Jose Mourinho, who praised Ali for his skills in an interview for beIN Sports: “He is an agile player, fast, with a lot of coordination. In addition, he moves very well and, especially, he does not get nervous in front of the goalkeeper.”

Since then, Ali has also scored for Qatar at the Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup when the Qataris featured as an invited team and has now tied Mansour Muftah as the top scorer of the national team, with 42 goals in 85 games, an average of 0.49 goals per game.

And while he was not able to deliver the same pace at the club level, for Al-Duhail, Ali has definitely been integrant for Qatar, his capacity of scoring and his leadership being praised by coach Felix Sanchez.

“Almoez is a fantastic player, he’s a pleasure to coach. He’s 100 percent committed, each game he gives his all. Above all, he works for the team,” said Sanchez prior to the World Cup.

With all of Qatar’s players featuring in the domestic league, Ali was close to breaking the norm in 2020, just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but a return to LASK Linz was missed by an inch, with Ali staying put to Al-Dusail in the end.

It probably proved the right move, as Qatar will now gear up to play against Ecuador, the Netherlands and Senegal in Group A at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“We want everyone to be proud of our team and of a generation of players that is achieving tremendous success. We have big ambitions, but I can’t talk about them right now because they are growing day by day. But I can promise that we will do everything to provide some surprises and go as far as we can at the World Cup,” concluded a confident Ali just after scoring his record-setting 42nd goal for the team in a friendly match against Albania in November.

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