With a population that doesn't quite reach 1 million, Qatar has often struggled to match the success of Asia's soccer heavyweights. The ruling Al Thani family originally attempted to fix the situation by bringing big names, such as Gabriel Batistuta and Romario, to the domestic league.
When the talent didn't quite diffuse to Qatari players, the Al Thanis decided to skip a step, offering money directly to players willing to become Qatari citizens.
Qatar adopted the strategy for the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, with former coach Philippe Troussier (a Frenchman) commenting, "Naturalizations are nothing new to Qatar, 80 percent of my squad was not born in Qatar."
But only now is the controversial move beginning to pay dividends.
This past weekend, Qatar defeated reigning Asian Cup Champions Iraq 1-0 to advance to the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
The oil-rich country will be one of 10 teams vying for the four and a half World Cup spots allotted to Asia. The final stage divides the remaining countries into two groups of five. The top two from each group will qualify, while the two-third place teams will play each other with the winner entering a playoff against the winner of the Oceania qualifying region.
Qatari national coach Jorge Fossati (a Uruguayan) praised his players while looking ahead to the next qualifying stage, "We're very proud of what the team has achieved. But that's not enough. The next goal is the final round of qualification."
Fossati's recruits include Mohamed Saqr (Senegal), Abdullah Kone (Senegal), Sebastian Soria (Uruguay), Fabio Cesar (Brazil), Marcio Emerson Passos (Brazil) and Marcone Junior (Brazil).