Cheetahs seek big leap in Qatar Cup
Al Gharafa qualified for the Qatar Cup in the last minute after finishing fourth in the QNB Stars League following their 3-0 win over Qatar SC in Week 22.
Going into the final day of this season’s competition, Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan had already taken unassailable leads and the question was which team would complete the Qatar Cup line-up.
Al Gharafa were widely expected to stay in the fourth position, going by form and circumstances. Going into the final day on 8th April when four games kicked off simultaneously, Umm Salal needed to beat Al Markhiya and hope Al Gharafa drop points against Qatar SC as they both were on 32 points, with The Cheetahs ahead on goal difference (+6 against -1.
However, Al Gharafa came through with flying colours, while The Orange Fortress fumbled, being held 1-1 by already-relegated Al Markhiya, and the former finished on 35 points, two points separating them.
The Cheetahs are thus back in the elite Qatar Cup, featuring the top four teams in the league, after six seasons. They will play new champions Al Duhail.
In hindsight, Al Gharafa reaped rewards for making an overhaul in the January transfer window. Turkish coach Bulent Uygun took over from Frenchman Jean Fernandez, who guided them to the QSL Cup triumph, before the start of second phase.
They also strengthened their ranks by roping in Dutch attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder, Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi and Assim Madibo.
All of a sudden, a team that stood only at the seventh place in the QNB Stars League standings with just 11 points and two wins at the end of 11-round first phase made a remarkable turnaround.
Al Gharafa were the side that definitely made the most of the changes in the midseason transfers.
They have a good mix of experience and youth, and Bulent succeeded in moulding them into a fighting unit.
The likes of Sneijder, Taremi and Brazilian midfielder Diogo Amado gelled well with youngsters such as goalkeeper Youssef Hassan, Amro Seraj, Ilyas Ahmed and Monkez Mohamed.
They also have talented players such as Ahmed Alaaeldin, Hassan Fadli, Madbo and Othman Al Yahri.
That Al Gharafa had 10 players in the Qatar national team and Olympic team shows the strength in their squad.
Al Gharafa have one of the strongest attacking lines. They scored 43 goals, the fourth best by any team in the QNB Stars League after Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan, while conceding 34.
They recorded 10 victories, five draws and seven defeats.