Asian Cup: Everything you need to know as World Cup host Qatar stages latest soccer tournament

AP , Wednesday 10 Jan 2024

Just over a year after Lionel Messi led Argentina to the World Cup title in Qatar, international soccer is back in the Middle Eastern nation for the Asian Cup.

Asian Cup
File Photo: The Asian Cup. AFP

The 18th edition of the competition kicks off in Lusail on Friday. The tournament was originally scheduled for 2023 in China, but those plans were canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qatar, which was already preparing for the 2022 World Cup with an array of state-of-the-art stadiums, was selected from a second round of bidding and a new date of 2024 was set for the biggest international soccer event in the region.

ASIA'S BEST

Qatar won the title for the first time in 2019 and will defend the trophy against the elite of Asian soccer.

World Cup-qualifying teams South Korea, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the nations competing in the tournament that runs from Jan. 12 through Feb. 10.

Saudi Arabia secured one of the most famous upsets in World Cup history when it beat Argentina in its opening game in Qatar, and Japan topped a group that included Spain and Germany to advance to the knockout stage.

FORMAT

The quadrennial tournament sees 24 teams drawn into six groups of four that play in a round-robin format. The top two from each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the round of 16. From there it is a knockout competition through to the final.

FAVORITE

Japan is the favorite to win the trophy for a fifth time, ahead of South Korea, Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hong Kong is the big outsider.

STADIA

The Asian Cup will be another chance to see many of the spectacular stadiums used to host the World Cup. Lusail, which hosted arguably the greatest World Cup final in history when Argentina beat France on penalties after a 3-3 draw, will be used for the opening game of the Asian Cup and the final.

Al Bayt Stadium was one of the most distinctive from the World Cup, having been constructed to look like a tent.

Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, which opened in 1975, was not used for the World Cup but will host seven matches of this tournament.

STAR PLAYERS

Tottenham's South Korea forward Son Heung-Min is perhaps the biggest star attraction, but there are a number of players from leading clubs who will be in action.

Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo will be competing for Japan and he will be joined by countrymen Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Takumi Minamino (Monaco) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal).

On-loan Roma forward Sardar Azmoun is part of Iran's squad, while South Korea also has Bayern Munich defender Kim Minjae, Wolverhampton forward Hwang Hee-Chan and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in.

There are star names among the coaches as well, with multiple title-winning Italian Roberto Mancini in charge of Saudi Arabia and German great Jurgen Klinsmann leading South Korea.

Argentine coach Hector Cuper was a two-time Champions League runner-up with Valencia and is now in charge of Syria's national team.

PAST WINNERS

Japan in the most successful team in the history of the Asian Cup, having won it four times — most recently in 2011.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have each won three titles and South Korea has won two. Australia won the tournament for the first time in 2015.

PRIZE MONEY

The champion receives $5 million and the runner-up gets $3 million.

Losing semifinalists pick up $1 million each and all 24 participating teams receive a fee of $200,000.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
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