Preview: All eyes on Doha as first edition of FIFA Arab Cup kicks off Tuesday

Mahmoud Elassal , Monday 29 Nov 2021

All eyes will be on Qatar’s Doha as it will host the regional ‘FIFA Arab Cup’ from 30 November to 18 December with the participation of 16 topflight teams.

FIFA Arab Cup

It’s the first all-Arab competition to be organised by the FIFA as it prepares for the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup that will also be held in Qatar, which is will take place by the end of next year.

The Arab Cup’s first edition was held in 1963 in Lebanon, and after two additional editions that were played in 1964 and 1966, the tournament was halted for almost 20 years before being revived in 1985.

The tournament was then played five more times until 2012. The last time the competition was held, it was organised by the Union of Arab Football Associations, however, it was then suspended due to the busy agenda of the participants.

Most of the participants won’t show up in the tournament with their A teams because it is not in the international agenda.

The nine highest-ranked teams in the Middle East and North Africa were automatically given group-stage spots and have been joined by the seven winners of the qualifying stage. The top two in each group will advance to the quarterfinals.

Sixteen teams reached the final phase of the Arab Cup and were drawn into 4 groups after 23 Arab teams were involved in the qualifiers.

Egypt, who were drawn in Group D of the FIFA Arab Cup alongside Algeria, Lebanon, and Sudan, will not be bringing in their Europe-based players.

Pharaohs’ coach Carlos Queiroz believes the FIFA Arab Cup would be a good preparation for both the African Cup of Nations next year and the final stage of the World Cup qualifiers in March.

“Our target in the FIFA Arab Cup is to prepare our players for the World Cup qualifiers and the African Cup of Nations. This doesn’t mean that we won’t compete for the Arab Cup title, but our main target is reaching the World Cup finals,” Queiroz told a press conference on Saturday ahead of travelling to Doha.

The opening game will take place between hosts Qatar and Bahrain on Tuesday.

Iraq have won the tournament the most, with four trophies under their belt, followed by Saudi Arabia — who won the title twice — and Egypt, who won it only once in 1992.

The winner of the FIFA Arab Cup will reportedly be given USD 5 million, and the runner-up will claim USD 3 million.

The FIFA Arab Cup 2021 draw:
Group A: (Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain)
Group B: (Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Mauritania)
Group C: (Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine)
Group D: (Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan).

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