ZURICH/DOHA: FIFA has confirmed that Qatar will host an Arab Cup tournament in December next year which will feature 22 teams from around the region and act as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup in the Gulf State the following year.
The world governing body said the competing nations would be Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
After an initial knockout stage 16 teams for 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.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, visiting the Lusail stadium which will stage the World Cup Final in 2022, said: “Through football, this tournament will unite over 450 million people from across the region.”
Previously, an Arab Nations Cup was held on an irregular basis with nine tournaments staged between 1963 and 2012.
Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Thani, president of the Qatar Football Association, added: “(It) 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.”
The finals of both the FIFA Arab Cup and FIFA World Cup will take place exactly one year apart – each on 18 December, Qatar National Day, which is a public holiday.