FIFA has confirmed plans for Qatar to stage an Arab Cup tournament next year, with the event earmarked to be the final test of preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
The Qatar Football Association (QFA) and FIFA first announced that the Gulf state would host a pan-Arab tournament back in June, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino yesterday (Tuesday) confirming the plan during a visit to Lusail Stadium, which will stage the World Cup final.
The FIFA Arab Cup will be held from December 1-18 next year, involving 22 national teams from the region. Along with the host nation, the following teams will compete: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The 16 teams that take part in the final stage will be split into four groups, with the top two from each qualifying for the quarter-finals. A total of 32 matches will be held over 18 days. An Arab Nations Cup has previously been staged, but on an irregular basis with nine tournaments taking place between 1963 and 2012.
Infantino said: “We are delighted that all 22 teams from across the Arab world have agreed to take part in the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, which will be held in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 stadiums, and we are looking forward to seeing the region’s best teams battle it out to see which nation will become champion.
“Through football, this tournament will unite over 450 million people from across the region, and we are confident that the FIFA Arab Cup will help to build excitement across the region as we edge ever nearer to hosting the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world in 2022.”
The tournament will be delivered by FIFA, the QFA, World Cup organising body the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC. Seen as a vital opportunity to test operations and facilities ahead of Qatar 2022, the tournament will take place in the same timeslot as the World Cup. The finals of both the Arab Cup and World Cup will take place exactly one year apart – each on December 18.
Qatar 2022 chief executive Nasser Al Khater last month revealed that construction work on projects for the World Cup was nearing 90 per cent completion, with focus beginning to turn to planning and fan experience for the tournament.
The schedule for the tournament was confirmed in July. So far, three stadiums have been completed, with Education City Stadium being inaugurated in June to join the redeveloped Khalifa International Stadium and the new Al Janoub Stadium. Qatar 2022 last month said that all eight venues will be finished “well in advance of the tournament” and Al Khater added that work is progressing well.
Commenting on the launch of the Arab Cup, QFA president, H.E. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Thani, said: “Qatar looks forward to welcoming 22 Arab national teams and their fans, and giving them the opportunity to be one of the select teams that will experience what Qatar has prepared to host the FIFA World Cup.
“Fans from across the region will be treated to the same world-class experience that awaits fans from around the world when they flock to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. We welcome our friends from the Middle East and the Arab world to join us in what will be an important milestone and a final test of our preparations, only one year away from us hosting the first FIFA World Cup in the region.”
Image: Qatar 2022