CANBERRA - Qatar coach Djamel Belmadi took "no positives" from his side's 4-1 loss to United Arab Emirates as the future World Cup hosts were left staring at an early Asian Cup exit on Sunday.
The Qataris are left with a mountain to climb if they are to progress to the knock-out stages after Sunday's heavy defeat to their Gulf rivals and group favourites Iran's win over Bahrain.
Qatar take on the Iranians, Asia's top-ranked team, in a do-or-die match in Sydney on Thursday, with anything less than a win likely to consign them to an early flight home.
Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 and are under pressure to build a competitive side worthy of staging such an illustrious tournament.
They won the Gulf Cup of Nations in November and a strong showing in Australia was expected to mark another stepping stone towards that goal, but after one game their campaign lies in tatters.
"When you lose 4-1 in the first game there's nothing to take, there's nothing positive," an angry Belmadi told reporters.
"Now we have to play against Iran, who qualified for the last World Cup. We are already under pressure after the game today and we have to make it a massive match." Qatar took the lead mid-way through the first half after a deft lob from former Asian player of the year Khalfan Ibrahim, dubbed the Gulf state's "Maradona".
But the Qataris were undone by a couple of blunders by goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
"When you analyse the goals there were a lot of individual mistakes," said Belmadi.
"(Burhan) made two mistakes but this is football. In previous competitions he's been the best goalkeeper and has saved us.
"Today was not his game, not his day, but when you are not in good shape, the defenders have to help you." Iran defeated Bahrain 2-0 in Melbourne on Sunday and are expected to top the group, with UAE now best placed to grab second spot.
Belmadi admitted it was going to be a challenge to turn around his side's fortunes at the 16-nation tournament.
"The group is strong, the group is tough, all the teams are good," he said.