Qatar playmaker Akram Afif (pictured) is aware Al Annabi will need more from him than setting up goals for his team-mates at the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
As Qatar make its long-awaited debut at the football showpiece, there will be huge pressure of expectations on the side from home fans, who expect the Felix Sanchez-coached team to make a strong appearance in their maiden outing.
Afif will be one of the key players who Qatar need to excel if they are to come up with encouraging results against their Group A opponents including European giants Netherlands, African champions Senegal, and Ecuador.
Versatile Afif, who plays on the left, and right wing, behind the striker and sometimes the key man upfront, has become more famous for his assists than scoring the goals.
When Qatar lifted their maiden Asian Cup title in 2019, Afif set a new tournament record with 10 assists, setting up most of striker Almoez Ali’s nine goals in his recording-breaking run in the UAE.
Afif, who remains among Al Sadd’s leading scorers in the QNB Stars League (QSL) over they years, is hoping to help Qatar with his goal-scoring skills at the World Cup in what is Al Annabi’s toughest test yet.
“I hope to score at the World Cup,” the 25-year-old said in a video posted on Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) Twitter account.
“But the most important thing is to help the team win [in any role],” said Afif, before adding all Qatar players will enter football’s greatest show with high aims.
“The goal of each player is to win and crown any championship he plays with his country or the team he plays for,” said Afif, who won Asia’s player of the year award in 2019.
Expressing satisfaction on the team’s long training camps in Austria and Spain, the Qatari star called on fans to show strong support during their matches.
“Fans’ support will be very important for us and we will wait for them on the field. In return for their support, we will try our best to make them happy,” said Afif.
Meanwhile, former players rated Afif as key to Qatar’s campaign at the World Cup.
“Always, when he is there, he finds solutions for the team. Without him it would be a big problem,” former Qatari forward Mohamed Mubarak Al Mohannadi was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Afif “can make something happen in a second. He’s exciting. He plays off the left, likes to cut inside and he can score goals,” said former Australia star Tim Cahill, who is chief sport officer at the Aspire Academy, from which Afif graduated.
Qatar will face Ecuador in the opening match of the World Cup on November 20 at Al Bayt Stadium.