History in the making as four Arab nations qualify for FIFA World Cup

Sports Wednesday 29/November/2017 18:27 PM
By: Times News Service
History in the making as four Arab nations qualify for FIFA World Cup

Moscow: For the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup, four Arab nations will be taking part in the tournament.
Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will represent the hopes and dreams of the Arab people at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14, 2018.
The draw for the World Cup takes place in the Russian capital on the first of December, and four of the 32 nations, for this first time in the 88-year history of the showpiece tournament, will be from Arabia.
Former Morocco international goalkeeper Chuck Martini, who represented his country at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, was all praise to see the progress of the sport in the Arab world.
“That there are four nations taking part from the Middle East and Northern Africa shows just how far football development has progressed in these nations,” said Martini, who is head coach of the Muscat Football Academy. “Obviously, as a former Morocco international, I am very happy to see my team do well. The last time we qualified I think was 20 years ago, so it’s good to see us back on the international stage.”
“We all know the Arab nations take their football really seriously, and it is a passion for all people in this part of the world,” added Gerald Lami, senior coach for the Juventus Academy Oman. “We’ve got four nations taking part in this world cup for the first time, and I think that’s great for football in the region.”
A significant number of players from three of these nations – with the exception of Saudi Arabia – play in Europe, and it is these individuals who have made the difference in the qualification process.
Morocco captain Medhi Benatia (Juventus), defenders Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) and Hamza Mendyl (LOSC Lille), midfielders Karim El Ahmadi and Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) and Amine Harit (Schalke 04) and winger Sofiane Boufal (Southampton) are key figures in their countries setup.
In addition, Egypt’s Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah has chipped in with 32 goals from 56 games for his nation. Other key players for the Pharaohs are Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, defenders Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich) and Karim Hafez (Racing Lens), winger Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City) and midfielder Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic).
“Both the Saudi Arabian and Tunisian leagues are highly competitive and always do well in continental tournaments,” revealed Martini. “They may not be well known outside their own regions, but both countries are some of the best in the area when it comes to football.
“It also has an effect among young players back home, because they will see these players and want to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
“If you look at players like Mohamed Salah, who have been so vital for Egypt, it shows how they have improved since coming to Europe, and they lead by example, and inspires other players to do well for their country, and seek a good club in Europe,” added Lami. “This is very good for academies in the region, because the next generation of footballers will be inspired by them and want to do well in future.”