The national coach of Korea Republic has said that Qatar’s investment in football is paying off in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, with the country showing ‘outstanding’ recent results at junior and senior levels.
German legend Uli Stielike, who won the 1980 European Championships and played for Real Madrid in an illustrious career, has been at the helm of the Asian football giants since the start of October.
The former coach of Al Arabi and Al Sailiya in the Qatar Stars League said that with 10 out of 16 teams at the forthcoming 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia from the Middle East region, there would be serious contenders in the fray from the Arab world.
“We will play Jordan and Iran soon and it will show us the way in which we will have to play,” said Stielike. “From my experience in Qatar I know that there has been a lot of investment in football, and that this is now showing effects. The results that Qatar has shown winning the U-19 Asian Championship, as well as the senior national team in recent months have been outstanding. To beat Uzbekistan, Lebanon and Australia convincingly without conceding a goal shows stability in their team. They are going to be contenders in the Asian Cup in January in Australia.”
Stielike added that smaller nations were closing the gap on giant countries like China in the Asian confederation.
“The smaller nations are catching up. Because of my work with the DFB youth I always follow the U-19 and U-20 teams, and it is clear that if you work well at the youth level than you can produce a good team, like Hong Kong or Qatar have shown recently.”
He highlighted the close links between the co-hosts of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the hosts of the 2022 edition, saying: “Qatar has close links to Korea Republic, 5 or 6 players from the Qatar Stars League are in my group of players, with four having been called up in my recent squad. South Korean players are very popular in Qatar, and I also talk to clubs in Germany like Mainz which have them in their team. They are very happy with the performances because they never cause problems off the pitch. I am very happy with my players and how they have been responding so far.”
Reflecting on Korea Republic’s legacy from hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Stielike said: “The country is profiting from the infrastructure, the World Cup stadiums are in good condition, but the league can still improve. We get into a car and travel around the country, trying to see as many matches as possible.”
Stielike also keeps a regular eye on the country where he used to coach, saying critics of Qatar should also take a look at the positives which the country can offer – like a compact tournament with no flights needed.
“I have read the comments made by FIFA President Blatter saying that a World Cup in November is the best option, and I agree because it would show the most comfortable side of Qatar to people. Hosting a compact World Cup will be comfortable for teams. There will be no time zone differences, no air travel required, and fans can see up to three games a day.”
The tough-tackling defender who reached the final of the 1982 FIFA World Cup said that he had been received well by fans in his new home: “The experience has been very positive so far. They put a lot of importance on education here, and everyone has been very helpful. We have played two games, with a win and a loss, but the fans are happy because of the way we played. I think we can get out a bit more from these players.”
Concluding with the thought that Asia should be given an additional half qualifying spot for future editions of the FIFA World Cup, Stielike pointed to his ambition to return the South Koreans to old strengths.
“We want to keep our tradition as the top team in Asia. Obviously there is a big rivalry with Japan and that will not change. At the moment we are fourth in the Asian rankings but we want to move forward, and try to win the Asian Cup in Australia. Of course it won’t be easy."