Amid controversy surrounding their hosting of the FIFA World Cup, Qatar can show they belong by doing their talking on the pitch

Akram Afif is likely to be Qatar's most-influential player at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, following his heroic exploits in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup-winning campaign. NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Never has a host nation of the FIFA World Cup been scrutinised as much Qatar.

Scrutiny which has turned into criticism. Criticism which has almost evolved into vilification.

A boycott of the tournament has even been encouraged in some quarters.

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Even former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the very man in charge of the organisation when it awarded the hosting rights to Qatar 12 years ago, has now come out claiming it was "a mistake".

"Too small of a country" and "football and the World Cup are too big for it" were his exact words. He went on to state that FIFA have since amended the criteria it uses in 2012 to select host countries in light of concerns over the working conditions at tournament-related construction sites in Qatar, which hints that they might not have gotten the nod under new regulations.

Nonetheless, the fact of the matter remains that, in just six days, the sport's biggest tournament will indeed be held in the Arab nation. And regardless of the off-field controversy, not everyone behind Qatar's participation at the World Cup should have to answer for the criticism.

Locals will be thrilled that their nation will host a World Cup. Tens of thousands from surrounding countries may finally get to witness the event in person due to its accessibility, even if the costs of gracing the tournament -- exacerbated by the country's limited infrastructure to accommodate a sudden influx of visitors -- also influences the number of fans who could actually afford it.

After all, this is only the second time the World Cup will grace Asia -- the largest continent both in land area and human population -- 20 years after South Korea and Japan did so.

And for the 26 players - many of whom were just children when their country was named hosts -- and countless other members of the backroom and technical staff, they should be able to be proud that they make up the first Qatari side that will feature on football's brightest stage.

So perhaps Nov. 20 cannot come sooner for Qatar for that will be when they can finally do their talking on the pitch.

There is no reason to believe the Maroons would not have qualified on their own merit, even if the tournament was being held elsewhere.

Granted, their current FIFA ranking of 50th makes them the second lowest-ranked hosts ever behind South Africa in 2010. But they also happen to be the reigning continental champions after their AFC Asian Cup triumph in 2019. They would have stood an excellent chance of being one of Asia's four automatic qualifiers -- or even as the fifth via the playoffs in the case of Australia.

Once at the World Cup, the onus will then be to be competitive among the best.

Fall to three defeats en route to a hasty group-stage exit -- which, in all fairness, could happen to anyone -- and even more question marks will be raised over the credibility of Qatar's presence in the tournament.

Yet, this Qatar outfit are hardly pushovers, even if their squad comprises entirely of players plying their trade domestically.

Unlike many others in the region, the Qatar Football Association have understood the value of stability and patience having kept faith in coach Felix Sanchez Bas -- who started as a national team youth coach as far back as 2013 -- since 2017 and duly being rewarded an Asian Cup triumph three years ago.

The names Hassan Al-Haydos, Almoez Ali, Akram Afif and Abdelkarim Hassan may not be familiar to many outside the continent but they have been among Asia's best footballers over the past decade, with the latter duo the two most recent winners of the Asian Footballer of the Year award.

There is enough quality in the team to cause a surprise or two for those who are already writing them off. Maybe not enough to overcome Netherlands and Senegal but certainly enough to give Ecuador a run for their money.

Still, similar to the furore over their hosting of the World Cup, perhaps there is no need to overly espouse what the Maroons can bring to the tournament.

In six days, the talking can be done on the pitch. And Qatar can show they do belong at the World Cup.