It has been a long time since Qatar had a victory of this magnitude to celebrate, and no one could blame their fans for taking to the streets of Doha after their deserved 2-0 win over Iraq. After all, it is not every day you defeat the reigning Asian champions in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier to move into second spot in the region's toughest qualifying group.

One man unsurprised by the win was team coach Jorge Fossati, who had been talking up his side's chances since their disappointing defeat (3-0) at the hands of Australia on the opening matchday of this third qualifying phase. "Technically we're just as good as the Iraqis. Many of them play here in our league and, from what I've seen, we've well capable of getting a good result against them," the Uruguayan told reporters.

Clearly the coach was able to get this message across to his players, as Qatar dominated the match from beginning to end, deservedly securing an unexpected win courtesy of two well-taken goals from their pacy midfielder Fabio Cesar Montesin.

In Khalfan we trust
One of the most impressive aspects of last week's win was the fact that it was achieved without their talisman and star striker Ibrahim Khalfan. Still just 20, the Al Sadd forward already has an Asian Player of the Year award to his name [2006] and has been very impressive with the senior national team, for whom he has netted 5 times in 16 appearances.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for the talented youngster. Last year he ruptured a cruciate ligament and consequently spent nine months on the sidelines. Despite having to cope with a potentially career-threatening injury at such a young age, Ibrahim made a complete recovery and quickly re-established himself as the team's key player.

"That lad has something special," says Fossati, "not just in terms of football technique but also mentally. He's a leader and an example to his colleagues. Normally, after that kind of lay off, I wouldn't have risked bringing someone back so soon, but he was adamant he was ready and he has been proving it with his performances."

As it happened, Khalfan would miss the Iraq game through injury, but thankfully it was nothing more serious than a muscle strain. Despite this disappointment, the player is ready and raring to go. "It's been difficult not playing for so long, but I'm happy to be back. Now we have to give our all in our remaining games to stay on track for the World Cup, something we're confident we can achieve," he said.

The moment of truth
Fortunately for the Qataris, another of their key players, Sebastian Soria, did play against Iraq, having missed their opening qualifier against the Socceroos. Also present against the Asian champions was Fabio Cesar, whose performance earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Unsurprisingly, Fossati feels the performances of this trio will be pivotal to the success of the team in the months ahead. "These are players who bring a lot to the team both and off the pitch, and that rubs off on the other members of the squad," he said.

Qatar's next game will be away to China PR, and a win would put them in a very strong position in the four-team group. At present, Australia lead the way with four points from two games, followed by Qatar on three, China PR on two and Iraq on one.

Predictably, the mood in the Qatari camp is upbeat after their recent win. "On this occasion we stuck with our game plan and managed to break up Iraq's fluid passing game," says the coach. That will give us confidence for the games ahead"

That said, Fossati will be keen to ensure his side do not cross the line from ebullience to over-confidence. It is not that long since Qatar were on the cusp of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup USA 1994 only to see their dream go up in smoke with a 1-0 home defeat to Saudi Arabia. For now, the country will be happy to continue springing surprises, and in this regard they seem to be on the right road.