DOHA, Qatar -- So after just 180 minutes -- and the additional 90 it took Netherlands and Ecuador to play out a 1-1 draw later on Friday evening, hosts Qatar have been eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a game to spare.
A second consecutive defeat in Group A earlier in the day -- a 3-1 loss at the hands of Senegal -- left the Qataris on the brink, with their fate then secured by the draw that left Netherlands and Ecuador both with four points to their names -- meaning Qatar can no longer finish inside the top two even in the unlikely event they beat the Dutch in their final game.
It was nonetheless an improved showing by Qatar against Senegal, after they appeared to be overawed by the occasion on their tournament debut on Sunday as they offered little resistance in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador.
On Friday afternoon, they looked up for the challenge against the African champions and might even have taken the lead had they been awarded a penalty when Akram Afif went down under a challenge from Ismaila Sarr inside the area, only for the Video Assistant Referee to refrain from intervening after referee Antonio Mateu had waved away the initial appeals.
A costly missed clearance by Boualem Khoukhi then allowed Boulaye Dia to open the scoring before four minutes before the break, before Famara Diedhiou doubled Senegal's tally with a glancing header three minutes after the restart.
Nonetheless, the majority of the 41,797 present at Al Thumama Stadium soon had something to cheer as a superb header from Mohammed Muntari handed Qatar their first-ever World Cup goal, although any hopes of a late fightback were quashed when Bamba Dieng pounced on another defensive lapse to seal a Senegal victory with a third goal.
So, with Qatar's maiden World Cup appearance now as good as over even with one final outing against Netherlands on Tuesday, just where have they been found wanting? And were there any positives?
First of all, the Qataris' lack of exposure playing on the biggest of stages has shown.
If not for the nerves that plagued them in their opening match, they might easily have produced a better display -- and earned a more positive result -- against Ecuador.
Their inexperience can further be attributed to the fact that none of their squad plies their trade outside of the domestic Qatar Stars League, and again emphasises the need for their brightest talents to gain exposure abroad and take their game to the next level.
The fact that two of the goals they conceded against Senegal, as well as the penalty that led to Enner Valencia's opener in the game against Ecuador, were gifts to the opposition does suggest that the pressure of the occasion might just have gotten to otherwise seasoned campaigners.
Of course, that is not to say that fingers should be pointed at those whose individual mistakes ultimately proved costly -- for that could happen to anyone.
Rather, the fact that Qatar did look like they were suffering from bright lights that accompanied the occasion, especially in that first game against Ecuador, suggests they will only be better for the experience in the future.
Despite the excellent work that coach Felix Sanchez has done with this team, there is also now the possibility that they might have peaked too early when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
The likes of Afif and Almoez Ali, who were poised to be stars of the continent, have looked jaded.
While it may always seem unwise to fix what is not broken, Qatar do look like they might have benefitted from some sort of fresh injection of new talent -- with the current team largely unchanged for the past four years.
Despite the fact that the hosts are out after just two games, it is hardly as woeful a campaign as some might make it out to be.
The controversy surrounding the Qataris hosting the World Cup, and subsequent queries on the legitimacy of their presence has led to added scrutiny but they have not been half bad -- even if there is always going to be pressure on the home team to make an impact and at least reach the knockout round.
They have had their moments -- like Muntari's history-making strike on Friday -- and still have the chance to create more, even if it will not be easy against the Dutch.
Qatar have been found wanting -- that is undeniable. But who hasn't in their World Cup debut?
The Qataris must now enjoy the occasion for what it is and embrace their final taste of the World Cup for at least another four years, before taking the necessary steps to ensure they are back again -- and this time, armed with the experience to give a better account of themselves.