Al Bayt Stadium is set to serve as the centrepiece of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, Qatar’s warm-up event for the 2022 World Cup, after the venues for the national team tournament were confirmed today (Monday).

Six of the eight stadia planned for Qatar 2022 will be utilised for the Arab Cup, with only Khalifa International Stadium and Lusail Stadium not involved. The former opened in its redeveloped guise as the first Qatar 2022-ready venue in May 2017, while Lusail Stadium, which is set to stage the World Cup’s opening game and final, is not expected to be ready until the end of the year at the earliest.

The Arab Cup will take place from November 30 to December 18 and has been designed to offer fans the chance to attend more than one match per day during the group stage, while getting a glimpse of what to expect one year later at the World Cup.

Al Bayt Stadium, inspired by traditional Arab tents, will host the opening match between Qatar and Bahrain, as well as the final plus three other games. Al Thumama Stadium, based on the design of a form of traditional Arab headwear, will stage six games, including a semi-final.

Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, the first World Cup stadium that will be fully dismantled and repurposed after the event, will host the other semi-final amongst its six games, which will also include the third place match.

Ahmad Bin Ali, Education City and Al Janoub stadiums, all built from scratch in preparation for 2022, complete the venue line-up for the Arab Cup, hosting four, five and six games, respectively.

FIFA confirmed plans for Qatar to stage an Arab Cup tournament this year back in November, 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 2020.

Along with the host nation, the following teams will compete: Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Syria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan.

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 19 days. An Arab Nations Cup has previously been staged, but on an irregular basis with nine tournaments taking place between 1963 and 2012.

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.

The ticket sales process for the Arab Cup will open tomorrow (Tuesday), with only fully vaccinated fan set to be allowed to attend games.

Image: Q22