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World Cup host Qatar lose to Linfield in practice match shock

Irish league champions Linfield deliver blow to Gulf team's tournament preparation with shock 1-0 victory
Qatar's players react after conceding during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 semi-final match against Algeria at Al-Thumama stadium Doha (AFP)
Qatar's players after conceding during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 semi-final match against Algeria at Al-Thumama stadium Doha (AFP)

Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup have taken an unexpected hit as the national team lost a practice match against a Northern Irish club side.

Linfield, a Belfast-based team that won the Irish League title in April, beat the Qataris 1-0 on Tuesday evening at a match in the Spanish coastal city of Marbella. 

Chris McKee, a striker who recently signed to Linfield from the Scottish club Rangers, scored the winning goal in the 19th minute. 

Seven of the starting XI on Tuesday also featured in a 0-0 draw against Slovenia in March.

“Linfield, the small Northern Irish football club, has beaten the NATION of Qatar. Madness,” tweeted journalist Adam Cailler. 

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Qatar is the first country in the modern era of the World Cup to compete as hosts without having ever previously reached the tournament through the qualifiers. 

Ranked 51st in the world, the country has lost just one international match out of its last nine fixtures.

The Gulf team are the current Asian champions, following their success at the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates where they won all seven of their matches and beat Japan in the final.

Over the past decade, the country has invested heavily in the Aspire Academy in Doha, with the ambition of developing top-class footballing talent.

Qatar has also established a naturalisation initiative for footballers scouted from across the world, something very rarely offered to foreign nationals in other professions.

Ten of its squad members for the Arab Cup were born outside the country.

The hosts will be in Group A of the 2022 World Cup, which kicks off on 21 November, alongside Senegal, Ecuador, and the Netherlands.