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The coach who left Barcelona to make history in Qatar

Felix Sanchez Bas has been in Qatar for almost two decades. He has already achieved some historic performances, but the big challenge is yet to come.

“It was thought of as a project to improve the level of football in the country and create a structure. The patience they had also helped because it’s clear that when you start a process, growth is not immediate and you don’t start earning from day one. “Felix Sanchez knows well what it means to be patient and not expect results from one day to the next. Born in 1975, in Barcelona, he worked for a decade in the famous La Masia. He had on hand, among others, Sergi Roberto, Marc Muniesa, Gerard Deulofeu, and Martin Montoya. In 2006, he received an offer from Qatar, which he accepted, convinced of the project presented to him.

Initially, he worked at Aspire Academy. Founded in 2005 by Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and funded directly by the state, the academy aimed at training Qatari athletes has proven a success. „I worked for many years at Asipre. He is already 16 years old and is proving to be a long-term project that is successful, and in football, there is usually no patience when it comes to such programs. Without this project, we would not have been able to train young players, and the fact that many are now in the first team is a good sign”, explained Sanchez, in an interview for Marca.

Felix Sanchez’s career practically developed with football in Qatar. In 2013, he was appointed the coach of the U19 national team, which he immediately led to a historic success: the title of Asian champion in this category, the first in the history of the country. In the summer of 2017, he replaced the Uruguayan Jorge Fossati in the senior national team. And from this position, he achieved a premiere performance. In 2019, Qatar won the continental title. Not anyway, but in a clear and exciting way.

At the tournament in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar won all 7 matches played and finished the competition with a 19-1 goal difference. The only goal conceded was the one in the final against Japan (3-1). On the way to the title, Sanchez’s men also beat other big names on the continent: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Korea, and the host UAE.

Also in 2019, Qatar was invited to Copa America, where it left the competition in the group stage. Then, from the host position, it reached the semi-finals of the Cup of Arab Nations in the Gulf, so that, in 2021, it will also be a semi-finalist at the Gold Cup, where it also participated as a guest. All these tournaments helped Felix Sanchez prepare the squad for the big test: the World Cup on home soil.

In the history of the World Cup, only one host country, South Africa in 2010, failed to get past the group stage. For Qatar, the mission to reach the round of 16 promises to be very difficult. The three-time world vice-champion Holland, Senegal, the African champion, and Ecuador, the revelation of the South American qualifiers, are also part of its group. Although he has Barcelona DNA, which he has tried to pass on to his players in Qatar, Sanchez knows it would be a mistake to try to stick to that philosophy against top opposition.

“We are a very small country that has never played in the World Cup. Our players are performing in the Qatari league, which is getting stronger but is still far from the best leagues in the world, where most of our opponents come from. We will face a team that reached the finals of the World Cup, and another that is the champion of Africa. Many players are the best in the world in their positions and have Champions League and World Cup experience.

We have talented players, we will try to play as a united group and on the counter-attack, we can be dangerous. We know that at this level it is very difficult to take the initiative, we have to adapt to these realities. It would be suicide to try to have the initiative. We will try to be compact defensively, to offer as few opportunities as possible to the opponents, and to be very good on the counter,” said Felix Sanchez.

Whatever strategy he chooses, Felix Sanchez knows he’s been waiting for this moment all his life. He is determined not to miss the chance to make history once again.

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