Dream is to reach 2022 WC knockout stage: Hassan – Gulf Times

Having recently been awarded the Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) Best Under-23 Player award, Abdulkarim Hassan has said he would love to win the QFA and AFC Player of the Year awards, ply his trade in Europe and make a difference for the national team in the historic 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.The 22-year-old left-back scored four goals in Qatar’s fourth-place finish in January’s AFC U-23 Championship in Doha, and was a core member of the Al Sadd side which finished third in the Qatar Stars League (QSL) behind Al Rayyan SC and El Jaish SC. After claiming his third best player trophy in age-group categories, Hassan has said that with the third round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers looming large, there is no time to rest on his laurels.“The upcoming 12 months are going to be important because of the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers,” said Hassan, who made his Al Annabi debut in 2010, aged 17, and has already clocked up an impressive 51 senior appearances while still an U-23 player. “The qualifiers will give young players valuable experience and prepare us for the dream of playing in the 2022 World Cup in front of our home fans.”  Though Hassan admitted it would be difficult to claim a direct route to Russia with Iran and South Korea in their qualifying group, he does not rule out a surprise from Jose Carreno’s Qatar side.“Football is a strange game and the big boys of the continent should watch out for us. Giving a good account of ourselves in the opener in Tehran on September 1 is very important to build confidence for the rest of the campaign. If we stage an upset at the intimidating Azaadi Stadium, nothing will stop us during the rest of the journey,” said Hassan.  Hassan, who says he has matured a lot this season by watching Spain legend Xavi’s professionalism at close quarters at Al Sadd, thinks the 2018 qualifiers will accelerate his evolution as a player.“I have already made a mark in Asian circles and I can further improve my stature before the completion of the qualifiers,” said Hassan.He made heads turn in the continent with his audacious chip over the goalkeeper from 45 yards in an AFC Champions League group game against Lokomotiv Tashkent last season. He also secured 26th spot in the list of the 50 best current Asian footballers published by UK-based FourFourTwo magazine in April.  However, the Aspire Academy graduate will not settle for anything other than being the best. “I am happy to be in that list,” said Hassan. “But I still need to improve. I want to win theQFA Best Player Award soon andInshallah the AFC Player of the Year award as well. But the biggest dream is to progress into the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup with the whole country behind us.”And though he loves his club Al Sadd, with whom he won the Asian Champions League in his debut season in 2011, Hassan wants to try his hand in Europe before 2022. “I want to play in Europe for one or two seasons. This exposure will enable me to realise my dream of playing well in the 2022 World Cup,” he said.Further proof of a calm head on young shoulders can be found in his choice of favourite stars – Roberto Carlos and Paolo Maldini. While Hassan identifies with the Brazilian World Cup winner’s natural instincts for surging, overlapping runs, he admires the tactical acumen of the Italian World Cup runner-up, who made his Serie A debut for AC Milan at 16 and claimed his first international cap three years later.“Maldini’s positional awareness was mind-blowing. He is a player to admire from afar because he is so perfect. But Roberto Carlos plays with natural flair and I feel I can relate to him,” said Hassan with a smile.However, though the Brazilian has a FIFA World Cup medal in his trophy cabinet, there is one reason why Hassan would prefer to be in the Italian’s shoes. “Maldini is one of the few lucky professional footballers who has played in a World Cup at home, in 1990. My biggest dream is to emulate him in 2022,” he concluded. (SC.qa)

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