- Yemen's Mohsen Qarawi scored in two successive Qatar 2022 qualifiers
- His strike against Saudi Arabia voted the best of September’s two rounds in Asia
- "Yemen won’t be easy prey for their other group opponents," he insists
After much anticipation across Asia, the first group stage in AFC qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022? finally got underway last month. The 32 fixtures, played over two rounds in September, produced some remarkable results, not least the successive 2-2 draws Yemen secured against Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com following the first two matchdays in Group D, Yemen’s star striker Mohsen Qarawi said: “In both games we wanted to prove we wouldn’t be easy prey for the rest of the group.”
The No10 put his team 2-1 ahead against Singapore when he chipped the advancing goalkeeper, before grabbing all the headlines in the following game against Saudi Arabia by opening the scoring with a superb bicycle kick. Describing the effort, Qarawi said: “I made a quick decision that I was going to strike the ball that way. I saw the ball floating into the area from midfield and, while some strikers would’ve opted to go towards it, control it and then hit it, I moved ahead of it into the box and got into position for the overhead kick. It all happened in less than three seconds.”
The strike was far from easy, with Qarawi having his back to goal and the ball not coming from a wide position. As the ball hit the net, Yemeni fans everywhere went wild, while the supporters present in the Bahrain National Stadium looked on in stunned appreciation. “Right after I scored, I ran across the pitch as my team-mates tried to catch me. I got as far as our bench, where they all grabbed me. We were very happy afterwards to have drawn the game. Yes, we wanted to win, but let’s not forget we were playing group favourites Saudi Arabia,” said Qarawi.
Qarawi’s goal quickly went viral, putting their match in the spotlight. Football fans all over the continent discussed the exploits of the Yemeni team and what Qarawi might achieve in the upcoming fixtures. “Both games gave us the confidence we needed to believe in ourselves and show that we’re ready to compete against anyone. The upcoming games will bring additional pressure, but we accept the challenge. I hope we do well against Uzbekistan in Tashkent and manage a similar performance and result,” he said.
“Yemeni players, by their very nature, love challenges and, despite all the difficulties we face, are working hard to maintain our fitness between games. We’re back now at our training camp in Riyadh, where we will get ready for the game against Uzbekistan. The goal is to maintain the good image of Yemeni football,” the forward added.
Qarawi began playing competitively at the age of ten, when a friend, who was impressed by his talent, helped him join Shamsan club. There he played for various youth teams before breaking into the senior side at 17, when he gained considerable experience playing against older opponents. His subsequent professional journey has taken in several teams in the Omani league, where he recently joined Al-Nahda.
Speaking of his new side, the 30-year-old said: “I hope to score many goals with Al-Nahda. Playing with them in the league will help me improve technically and maintain my fitness for the rest of the qualifiers.”
Asking him how it felt to hear his goal against Saudi Arabia had received thousands of votes to top a poll conducted by the AFC’s website, Qarawi answered with a big smile saying: “I’m happy it was chosen to be the best goal from the two rounds in September. I followed The Best Awards and I hope my goal will be among the candidates for the Puskás Award next year. This would make me very proud.”