With reporting from Antoine Kornprobst in Paris
Some 40,000 people turned out last night to watch two of the world’s most renowned football teams face off in Doha during a sold-out friendly match that ended with Spain on top.
On the ground, the two teams appeared motivated, but tired. Qatar-owned Paris Saint Germain, which has been in town for a week-long training camp, put up a fight. But Real Madrid kept the lead after 20-year-old Spanish striker Jesé Rodríguez Ruiz scored the only goal of the 90-minute match in the 19th minute.
Speaking to the Gulf Times, PSG’s left defense Maxwell Cabelino Andrade defended his team’s performance, saying players are saving their strength for the opening of the France Ligue 1 next week:
“For us, it was a preparation match so we don’t really consider it to be a defeat; it was more of a training exercise. The most important thing for us is Sunday and our match in the French Cup against second division side Brest. We’re not at 100 percent and could still feel the effects of the holiday season in our legs.”
The game was organized by the Qatar Football Association (QFA) as part of a recently announced partnership between the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and PSG, to promote the country as an attractive tourist destination.
Meanwhile, fans have been recapping the event, discussing everything from the action on the pitch, to the intermittent rain, to the organization of the match.
— Muhamad Kamaluddin (@mkamaluddin) January 3, 2014
According to the Peninsula, those who flocked to the packed Khalifa Stadium included residents of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain, as observed through vehicles parked in nearby Villaggio mall.
Overall, it appears that reaction to the match was mixed. Many fans expressing excitement at seeing some of their favorite football players in the flesh, while others said they were disappointed with how the event was managed.
On the pitch, a friendly with 19 substitutions was never going to flow freely, but the tempo slowed even further as the grass became ever more slippery, with players unwilling to make challenges that could injure them ahead of the resumption of their domestic season next week…
The crowd left wet, cold and, judging from my section at least, a little underwhelmed. The overall stadium experience was a marked improvement on last year’s Spain v. Uruguay friendly, but stewarding inside the stadium was notably absent.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:
And here’s a highlight reel of the match:
Did you watch the game? Thoughts?