Qualifying for the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ will be the focus of 14 nations when they take part in single play-off matches in Doha from 19-25 June.
Seven spots in the group stage are at stake, as participants from across the Arab world look to secure their place in the tournament, which will take place in Qatar from 30 November to 18 December. The showpiece event will support Qatar’s preparations for the FIFA World Cup™ and showcase the region’s passion for the beautiful game.
As per the FIFA Rankings, the following nine teams have already qualified for the tournament: Qatar (hosts), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Syria. The 14 lower-ranked teams will contest play-offs to earn their spot in the tournament.
Two venues will host the qualifiers: Khalifa International Stadium – which is also one of eight Qatar 2022 tournament venues – and Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. All the matches will kick off at 8 PM local time. Tickets for the matches are available from the Qatar Football Association website: tickets.qfa.qa. Fans who attend the matches must be fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the last nine months.
Here, qatar2022.qa previews the seven play-off matches.
Qatar’s national stadium will raise the curtain on the qualifiers when African rivals Libya and Sudan clash for a spot in Group D alongside Algeria, Egypt and the winner of Lebanon versus Djibouti.
Led by Spaniard Javier Clemente, Libya will be looking to make the group stage after missing out on qualification for next January’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations – a competition they finished as runners-up in back in 1982. The Mediterranean Knights’ only international honour was winning the African Nations Championship in 2014.
One of the pioneers in establishing the Africa Cup of Nations, Sudan are looking to revive past glories by securing their spot in Qatar later this year. The Falcons of Jediane have a proud footballing history, having hosted the first edition of Africa’s top competition in 1957 before winning the title on home soil in 1970.
A place in Group A alongside Qatar, Iraq and the winner of Bahrain versus Kuwait will be the prize for Oman or Somalia.
Oman will be keen for another crack at Qatar after finishing behind the Maroons in their World Cup qualifying group. The Reds’ recent record has been impressive, having appeared in four of the last five AFC Asian Cups, with their best performance coming in 2019 when they reached the round of 16. Prior to that, Oman won two Arabian Gulf Cup titles (2009, 2017). Their hopes of featuring at Qatar 2022 remain alive after they advanced to the third group stage of Asian zone qualifying earlier this month.
Somalia will see this match as a huge opportunity to showcase themselves on a big stage. The Ocean Stars’ hopes of qualifying for Qatar 2022 ended in the first round of African qualifying after defeat to Zimbabwe in September 2019. They have appeared in regional competitions such as the CECAFA Cup and featured at the Pan Arab Games in 1985.
A meeting with Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the winner of the Palestine versus Comoros match in Group C awaits the winner of this contest.
June has been a busy month for Jordan. Ahead of their clash with South Sudan, the Chivalrous saw their hopes of reaching Qatar 2022 come to an end after the latest round of Asian zone qualifying in Kuwait. Despite that disappointment, the Middle East outfit have made strides on the continental front after two quarter-final appearances at the AFC Asian Cup in 2004 and 2011. Other achievements include three runners-up finishes in the West Asian Football Federation Championship (2002, 2008, 2014) and two Pan Arab Games titles (1997, 1999).
Gaining their independence as a nation in 2011, South Sudan came on to the international football scene the following year. Their best achievement to-date was in the regional CECAFA Cup competition, where they reached the quarter-finals in 2015. The Bright Stars have appeared in two World Cup qualifying campaigns to-date.
Mauritania and Yemen will do battle for the lone qualification spot in Group B, where Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Syria await.
A team on the rise in recent years, Mauritania’s improvement can be measured by their jump of more than 100 places in the FIFA World Rankings between 2012 and 2017. The Lions of Chinguetti not only have their sights on returning to Qatar later this year, but also making football’s showpiece event in 2022 after being drawn in an African zone qualifying group with Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia and Zambia. After making their Africa Cup of Nations debut in 2019, Mauritania recently secured their place in the next edition of the tournament in early 2022. Their international record also includes appearances in three Pan Arab Games (1976, 1985, 1997).
Having seen their hopes to make Qatar 2022 come to an end during the latest round of Asian zone World Cup qualifying in Saudi Arabia, Yemen will hope for better fortune when they face their African opponents. The Middle East side made their AFC Asian Cup debut in the last edition in 2019. They have also appeared in nine Arabian Gulf Cup tournaments. Yemen have also participated in the 1985 Pan Arab Games and three West Asian Football Federation Championships, where they reached the semi-finals in 2010.
This inter-continental clash will provide the winner a place in Group D alongside Algeria, Egypt and the winners of the Libya versus Sudan qualification match.
The showdown at Qatar’s national stadium will conclude a busy month of June for Lebanon, who reached the next round of World Cup qualifying after completing their latest set of Asian zone qualifiers in the Korea Republic. The Cedars will want another taste of tournament action after playing in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 – their second appearance in the continent’s top tournament after hosting the event in 2000. Their achievements include third-place finishes in the Pan Arab Games in 1957 and 1997 – both of which were staged in Beirut. Lebanon also appeared in seven West Asian Football Federation Championships between 2000 and 2019.
Known as the Shoremen of the Red Sea, Djibouti hope qualification to the group stage will be a culmination to an important 2021 that will include their pursuit of making Qatar 2022. Following a two-leg win over Eswatini in the first round of African zone qualifying, Djibouti will continue their World Cup journey in the second round group stage versus Algeria, Burkina Faso and Niger later this year. Returning to Qatar in December would also make up for the disappointment of an early qualifying exit for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations back in October 2019. At regional level, Djibouti have appeared in 12 CECAFA Cup competitions between 1994 and 2019.
These two aspiring sides meet for a spot in Group C, where Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the winner of the Jordan versus South Sudan qualification match await.
Considered an emerging nation in Asian football, Palestine will be keen to reach the group stage after seeing their hopes of making Qatar 2022 come to an end during the latest round of Asian zone World Cup qualifying in Saudi Arabia. The Lions of Canaan can draw on their recent experience at the AFC Asian Cup for inspiration. They made their tournament debut at Australia 2015 after winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup before appearing in the last edition in the United Arab Emirates in 2019. The Middle East side have also appeared in nine West Asian Football Federation Championships and won a bronze medal at the 1999 Pan Arab Games.
Situated in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, Comoros are aiming to qualify for a second major tournament after booking their maiden ticket for the next Africa Cup of Nations. The Coelacanths earned their place at Cameroon 2021 from a qualifying group that included African powerhouse Egypt, Kenya and Togo. It made up for the disappointment of seeing their Qatar 2022 hopes end in September 2019 when they lost over two legs to the Togolese in the first round of African zone World Cup qualifying. Comoros have been an active participant in regional competitions, having made four appearances in the COSAFA Cup and winning two bronze medals at the Indian Ocean Island Games in 1979 and 1985.
This final qualifier sees two Gulf rivals battle it out for a spot in Group A alongside Qatar, Iraq, and the winner of Oman versus Somalia qualification match. It is an opportunity for both teams to play on the big stage after seeing their hopes of qualifying for Qatar 2022 come to an end earlier this month.
Bahrain have enjoyed a measure of success on the international stage in recent years, with 2019 proving to be a memorable year for the Red Wolves after they claimed two maiden titles within the space of five months – the West Asian Football Federation Championship in Iraq and the Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar. It was also in Qatar that Bahrain won a gold medal at the 2011 Pan Arab Games. Though they have yet to qualify for a World Cup, Bahrain have made strides on the continental front, having earned a fourth-place finish at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup in China.
One of the most successful teams in the Gulf region, Kuwait were the first Arab country from Asia to qualify for a World Cup after appearing at Spain 1982. This came two years after winning their lone AFC Asian Cup title as hosts in 1980. The Blues are the most successful team in Arabian Gulf Cup history, winning the title ten times, most recently in 2010. It was that same year that Kuwait won their lone West Asian Football Federation Championship title. Other notable achievements include a quarter-final finish at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, two silver medals at the Asian Games (1982, 1998) and a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan Arab Games in Qatar.
Here is the full match schedule:
Source: press release
Cover image: Twitter/@roadto2022news
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