In an emerging football nation crying out for heroes, the hulking figure of attack-minded fullback Abdulkarim Hassan fits the bill very nicely thanks very much...
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- Date of birth: August 28, 1993
- Place of birth: Doha, Qatar
- Height: 1.86m
- Position: Defender
- Current club: Al Sadd, Qatar
An imposing presence at just over six-feet tall, Abdulkarim Hassan has emerged over the past few seasons as one of the most domineering defenders in the Middle East.
He has also become a key player for both Qatar’s full national team and the country’s under-23 side, which he captains.
He made his debut for the senior national side in 2010 as a 17-year-old against Oman and was just 18 when he featured for Al Sadd when the club became the first Qatari side to win the AFC Champions League in its current format with a penalty shootout win over Jeonbuk Motors in 2011.
A versatile presence at left-back, Hassan brings a potent attacking threat to both his club and national teams, and was a key member of the Qatar side that won the Gulf Cup in 2014.
He carries a significant goal threat both from open play and at set pieces, scoring four times for Qatar at the AFC Under-23 Championships in January as the hosts finished fourth.
Why you need to know him
Strong and quick, his added presence creates options offensively
With Qatar due to host the FIFA World Cup finals in 2022, the pressure is growing on the country to produce a batch of players who can make an impact on the global stage prior to the tournament being played in the Middle East.
The 22-year-old is one of a group of impressive young players – alongside the likes of Akram Afif and Ahmad Yasser – who have started to emerge for the national team and who will likely be the cornerstones of the team that turns out at the finals in six years’ time.
Hassan is an unusually powerful and commanding presence for a full back and his ability to move forward and support the attack will make him a key part of Jose Daniel Carreno’s team in its bid to book a place in the finals in Russia in 2018.
Hassan’s ability on the ball is impressive and his drive to move forward means he brings a lot to the Qatar attack.
Strong and quick, his added presence creates options offensively, especially in his link-up play with playmaker Akram Afif.
He has the ability to score from open play – as evidenced with a fine goal against China in the opening game of the AFC Under-23 Championship earlier this year – while also presenting a serious goal-scoring threat from set pieces.
After four rounds of matches at the under 23 tournament, Hassan was the competition’s leading scorer despite playing in defence.
Hassan’s desire to attack can leave his colleagues in defence understaffed when the team is caught in possession or they are hit on the counterattack, although his pace often ensures he is able to make up lost ground.
“Abdulkarim is a left-back, but he’s a very offence-minded player. Everybody knows about his goal-scoring skills. He’s very good. He’s having a great tournament and we’re proud of him,” Qatar under-23 coach Felix Sanchez said during the AFC Under-23 Championship
“We always urge him to score more. He’s an influential player for us, always helping us in attack,” said Qatar attacking midfielder Akram Afif.
Did you know?
Hassan has already played on more than 50 occasions for Qatar despite being only 22 and he was part of the squad that represented the nation at the AFC Asian Cup finals in Australia in 2015 and won the Gulf Cup in Saudi Arabia in 2014.
His importance to Al Sadd means it will take a significant offer for him to move abroad
His role model is Brazil’s Roberto Carlos and in his spare time, he likes to drive jet skis and spend time in the desert.
What happens next?
With Qatar missing out on a place at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with a fourth place finish at the AFC U23 Championship – only the top three countries qualify – Hassan will be focused on helping Qatar in their attempt to book a spot at the World Cup finals for the first time when the final phase of qualifying for Russia 2018 kicks off in September.
Like many of Qatar’s up-and-coming young stars, Hassan would benefit from playing outside the insular football world of the Gulf state, but his importance to Al Sadd means it will take a significant offer for him to move abroad and, as yet, none has been forthcoming.
Further eye-catching performances in the final phase of Asia’s World Cup qualifying tournament could change that.