By ROB HARRIS
AP Global Soccer Writer
Qatar will gain more match experience ahead of hosting the 2022 World Cup by effectively joining the qualifying group featuring European champion Portugal to play friendlies.
The arrangement provides Qatar with 10 friendlies in Europe, with the results not counting in Group A as the Asian champions qualify as World Cup hosts.
The other opponents in Group A are Serbia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.
“As Qatar has already qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup as hosts, UEFA has invited them to join with the teams of Group A to help their squad prepare for the tournament,” the European governing body said in a statement on Tuesday.
Qatar will play all the matches in Europe, starting on March 24 against Luxembourg. Qatar is joining the only five-team qualifying group not featuring the UEFA Nations League finalists, while the other groups in Europe contain six sides.
The Qataris are also set to play in both regional tournaments covering the Americas next year.
They will first contest the Copa América from June 11-July 10 as part of a group with co-host Colombia as well as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
Then, a Qatari team will be in the United States for the July 10-Aug. 1 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Qatar won its first Asian Cup title in 2019 by beating Japan in the final and is No. 59 in the FIFA world rankings.
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