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ACL experience a 'huge benefit' for World Cup 2022: Karim Boudiaf & Nam Tae-hee

ACL experience a 'huge benefit' for World Cup 2022: Karim Boudiaf & Nam Tae-hee
Lekhwiya SC teammates Karim Boudiaf and Nam Tae-hee believe that the continued positive performances of Qatar Stars League (QSL) clubs in the AFC Champions League will be important for the country's national team to emerge among Asia's elite in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 2014-15 QSL champions are set for a double header this week with Friday's Emir Cup final against Al Sadd preceded by Tuesday's AFC Champions League round of 16 home game against fellow QSL side El Jaish.
And the midfield duo told that QSL clubs can challenge the best of Asia regularly over the next few years to follow on from the last continental triumph by Al Sadd Sports Club in 2011.
"This year a Qatari club is definitely going to be in the quarter-final," said Boudiaf, who started in all but one of Qatar's 2018 second round qualifiers.
"If Qatar is represented in at least the quarter-final or the semi-final of the AFC Champions League every year from now till 2022, it would have a positive impact on the national team for the home World Cup."
Al Sadd are the only QSL team to have lifted the AFC Champions League trophy and have done so on two occasions, in 1989 and again in 2011. Al Arabi were also runners-up in 1995 and Boudiaf believes the nation's club sides are heading in the right direction as journey as 2022 draws ever nearer.
"Winning a few World Cup matches in 2022 will be unbelievable," he continued."Focusing on the Champions League is one of the many ways we can make this happen. After the 2018 World Cup, the Asian Champions League will provide the main competitive test for our national team as we will not be playing the 2022 qualifiers."
The 25-year-old midfielder added that there is a short-term relevance to the elite continental club competition with the third round of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers looming in September.
"Lekhwiya could well end up facing an Iranian club in the Champions League quarter-final in late August. Our club has many Qatar national team players and a potential match-up against Zob Ahan or Tractor Sazi would give us valuable experience ahead of the challenging first qualifier at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on 1 September," said Boudiaf.
Boudiaf's midfield partner Nam Tae-hee, who joined Lekhwiya in 2012, also recognises that form in the elite continental club competition can be replicated on the international stage.
"The level in the AFC Champions League is very high and Lekhwiya's good run will help Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers," said South Korea's 24-year-old attacking midfielder.
"Lekhwiya reached the quarter-final in 2013 after defeating Al Hilal in the round of 16 but lost to eventual champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
"Qatar had a few of our players then and they really tested us in Seoul in the 2014 World Cup Qualifier. We scored the winner deep into injury time. This year we will target a spot in the Champions League final."
Nam, who is admiringly referred to by Boudiaf as one of the most technically gifted playmakers in Asian club football, said the Qatar national side have improved from the time 'Al Annabi' lost both their 2014 qualifiers to the 'Taeguk Warriors'.
"I played in the game in Doha and there is no doubt that Qatar is a much better side now technically and physically," he said."It will be a tough fight for the top two places between Qatar, us and Iran."
Nam, who started the AFC Asian Cup final of 2015 in which his country lost to host nation Australia, also said the trend of QSL clubs doing well in Asia is likely to continue."QSL clubs' focus on the Asian Champions League is a very positive sign for the Qatar national team looking to create a lasting impression in front of home fans at the 2022 World Cup, just as South Korea did in 2002."
That fairytale run to the semi-final by Guus Hiddink's side is still fresh in Nam's memory and he wishes to emulate it in 2022 in Qatar, which he calls his second home.
"I was just 10 then but I vividly remember Ahn Jung-hwan's golden goal against Italy in the round of 16. Also Park Ji-sung's winner in the group game against Portugal's golden generation. Those moments made me dream of wanting to play a World Cup at home. I will be very close to realising this if I play in Qatar in 2022."
However, there is the small matter of featuring in Russia before that. And both Boudiaf and Nam, who call each other brothers, have two special dates penciled in their diaries 6 October 2016 and 13 June 2017 when their countries face each other in the third round qualifiers.
"Those matches will be like a homecoming for me as there are many Lekhwiya players in Qatar including my friend Karim," smiled Nam.
Boudiaf echoed his team-mate and friend's sentiments, but said that will go out the window the whistle blows in the qualifiers.
"I will enjoy marking Nam," he said.
"Though I know his moves well from the training ground he is very quick and has great vision in his passing and it will be a great challenge. I will not be averse to giving him an odd kick if need be."