A World Cup trial tournament for Qatar 2022, FIFA Arab Cup, is set to begin on November 30th featuring sixteen teams from Middle East.
The world football governing body is holding its first-ever pan-Arab competition. Since the World Cup Qatar 2022 is only a year away, this tournament is ideal for testing the waters from venues to transportation facilities. The sixteen teams involved are including the elite sides such as the current African Cup of Nations Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and surely the host Qatar. They have been seeded in four groups. The top two teams from each will progress to the quarter finals. The final will take place on Qatar National Day, November 18th, the same date as the 2022 World Cup final.
FIFA Arab Cup 2021 Serves as World Cup Trial Tournament
Only Six Venues on the List
FIFA will definitely take this opportunity to check on how ready each venue of the world cup will be, especially the newly built and renovated ones, in hosting such huge global tournament. Qatar eventually decided to use only six venues out of eight enlisted ones for the official grand competition in 2022.
The six venues are Ahmad Bin Ali, Al Janoub and Education City, Al Bayt, Stadium 974 (formerly known as Ras Abu Aboud), and Al-Thumama, which was just unveiled in October. On the first matchday, November 30th, two of them, Al Bayt and Stadium 974, will be inaugurated. They will be staging Qatar against Bahrain and Saudi Arabia versus Syria respectively. The final will be held in Al-Bayt Stadium, which has the capacity of 60,000 fans.
Meanwhile, the remaining two, Khalifa International Stadium and Losail Stadium, are excluded due to different reasons. The former has been used for a number of regional and international sporting events including Asian Cup 2011 and FIFA Club World Cup 2019. So technically, this particular venue has passed FIFA quality assessment. The latter, however, is still in progress of construction. Losail is the venue for the world cup final and will undoubtedly be the cherry on the top of all Qatar’s plan.
The Expected Stars to See on the Pitch
The fans might expect to see the big names of Arabian football today such as Mohammed Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Achraf Hakimi or Wahbi Khazri on the pitch. Unfortunately, given the date, FIFA Arab Cup 2021 falls during the peak of European league fixtures before the winter break. Therefore, it is unlikely that they will be permitted by their clubs. Not to mention that the AFCON (African Cup of Nations) will be held in January 2022.
However, it does not mean that there are no stars or names from European leagues at all in this trial tournament. Algeria, Egypt, UAE, Tunisia, Morocco and the host Qatar still call up their marquee players in the final squad.
Algeria has named two key men in World Cup 2010 and 2014, the former Porto man Yacine Brahimi and the goalie Rais Mblohi, plus the scorer in AFCON final 2019, Baghdad Bounejah. Egypt counts on their goalkeeper in World Cup 2018 Mohamed El Shenawy. UAE is captained by the best player in World Cup U20 2007, Ismael Matar.
Meanwhile, Tunisia has named their best players in the squad, from Farouk Ben Mustapha, Yassine Meriah, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Ali Maaloul, Ferjani Sassi and Naim Sliti who were playing in World Cup 2018, to their young talents playing in Europe such as Manchester United U23 man Hannibal Mejri, Brondby’s Anis Ben Slimane, Rubin Kazan man Montasa Talbi, and Mohamed Drager who is currently playing for Nottingham Forest.
Morocco has included the skipper who was selected in World Cup 2018 squad, Badr Benoun. Saudi Arabia, which tops the Asian World Cup qualifiers, has Feras Al Brikan in the squad. Last but not least, the host Qatar will definitely rely on Almouz Ali and Hassan Ali Haydoz.
Detailed Dates of the Tournament
Here are the complete teams and dates of the tournament:
Group A: Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq
Group B: Tunisia, UAE, Mauritania, Syria
Group C: Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine
Group D: Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon
Group stage: November 30th to December 7th
Quarter finals: December 10th & 11th
Semifinals: December 15th
Third place and final: December 18th
Main Image Credit Embed from Getty Images