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Will Qatar and Argentina’s fates be intertwined forever?

It was 27 years ago and Qatar was hosting the first-ever major international football tournament in its history. Back then, the Middle Eastern country could only think about being the host of the FIFA World Cup. Yes, great strides were made in the last three decades, but the common denominator of the 1995 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup is the Khalifa International Stadium, the only arena that was already built for the mega sporting event in Qatar this winter.

Between 1995 and 2007, Argentina won five of the seven editions of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, but the first one was in Qatar, a signal that anything was possible for the South American country and that they were on the right path of delivering some excellent players throughout the next decades.

Not many stalwarts really graduated from that team, with defender Juan Pablo Sorin or midfielder Ariel Ibagaza standing out in the senior career. But as coach Jose Pekerman, who later helped Lionel Messi get his debut at the FIFA World Cup in 2006, mentioned, it proved like Argentina had future in football and a lot of talented players waiting in the wings.

Fast-forward to 2022 and Argentina are now also in Qatar and delivering some excellent football, creating an outstanding emulation and making an entire national dream with their eyes wide open. It would signal once again that anything is possible, even if a total domination of world football, like they had in the Under-20 age category is impossible.

Eight years ago, the dream ended in tears and disappointment, after losing the final against Germany after extra time. But right now, in Lionel Messi’s last edition of the FIFA World Cup, everything seems an option, everything seems possible. And if one looks for patterns, for a coincidence, for the universe working in mysterious ways, well, it cannot get better than that win 27 years ago, when Argentina triumphed in Qatar.

And if one wants to see that anything is possible and the patterns are there to stay, look no further than the game against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022, which Argentina totally dominated, led 2-0, only to be tied in the last minute of the match, in the tenth minute of injury time, through an outstanding goal from Wout Weghorst.

Usually, Argentina would have been totally dominated mentally and would have packed it in. This side is not like the past, though. They bounced back, tried to score and hit the post in extra-time, only to focus better in the penalty shots and emerge as winners, 6-5.

“That was something spectacular. After last World Cup, having lost in the round of 16, having left a bitter feeling, being among the best four again is something very nice for us, for the people, for the country, for Argentina, for Argentinian soccer. We will try to continue taking steps,” said Lionel Messi for Argentinian newspaper “Ole”, after scoring one goal and dishing one assist in the match and also converting the first penalty of the shoot-out.

It was a historic win, one that will be cherished forever in Argentina, one that will get in the lore of South American football, especially as rivals Brazil crashed out in the same day, also in a penalty shoot-out, against Croatia.

But there is something there in the air for Argentina in Qatar and it is just getting better and better for the South American team. Watching the dominos fall is just really amazing and it links everything.

Remember, Jose Pekerman was the coach that won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with Argentina in Qatar in 1995. He was the one that had the courage to debut Messi in the FIFA World Cup in 2006. And Messi, in his last edition of the World Cup at Qatar 2022 is playing like a player possessed, trying everything in his power to help his side lift the trophy again.

Argentina’s links with Qatar are not so well known, but it is definitely a thing to watch for. Because if history has a way of repeating itself, Croatia – Argentina’s next opponent – and the rival from the potential final have something to watch out for.

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