Bahrain have twice come close to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™, reaching the intercontinental play-offs in the qualifiers for Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010, losing to Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand respectively.
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The generation that contested those two play-offs was a golden one for the country, with the likes of Alaa Hubail, Ali Husein Baba and Mohamed Salmeen leading the way.
Today, more than a decade on from their exploits, the Reds’ new breed are pushing for world finals qualification once more.
Bahrain currently lie second in Group C of the Asian qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, having recorded two wins and three draws in their five matches to date.
They have three more games ahead of them in their bid to make it to the third round.
Their Portuguese coach Helio Sousa is banking on the players that won the West Asian Football Federation Championship and the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2019 to complete the job and take Bahrain to the world finals for the first time in their history. Among his most seasoned campaigners is veteran attacking midfielder Abdulwahab Al Malood, who is appearing in his third consecutive World Cup preliminaries.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, he compared the current qualification push with Bahrain’s two previous attempts.
“We prepared really well for the preliminaries and we’re really motivated too, with a new, experienced and intelligent coach,” said Al Malood. “We also have lots of ambition after winning the WAFF Championship and the Gulf Cup. In previous qualifying competitions, we lacked the experience we needed to take on the big teams.”