February 18, 2021

The FIFA Club World Cup is Over; Next stop, the 2021 Arab Cup

After the success of the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup, the next major international football event in Qatar is the 2021 Arab Cup. All things being equal, the Arab Cup will take place in COVID-free stadiums packed with spectators and visitors from all over the Arab world, providing World Cup hosts Qatar with an ideal test event before the 2022 tournament kick-off.

What is the 2021 Arab Cup?

The new tournament, launched by FIFA in November 2020, will see twenty-two of the region's best teams battle it out in Qatar to become champions of the Arab states. It will be the first major pan-Arab men's football competition since the last Arab Nations Cup, held in 2012 - the Nations Cup has been sporadically hosted since 1963. 

The 2021 Arab Cup Format

Twenty-two teams have signed up to play in the 2021 Arab Cup, which will comprise 32 matches held over 18 days in December. From those participants, ten will automatically qualify for the Round of 16 stage - qualifying will be based on the December 2021 FIFA ranking. The remaining twelve teams will play in a qualifying Group Stage; the six winning squads will move on to the Round of 16.

The sixteen teams who qualified from the Group Stage will be split into four groups of four. Each squad will play the others within the group to decide on the top two teams. The top two from each group will fight it out in the quarter-finals.

The four winning teams from the quarter-finals will go through to the semi-finals to contest a place in the final and a chance to be crowned champions of the Arab footballing world.

Tournament Participants

The 2021 tournament will see the following nations competing in seven of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup stadiums (all but Lusail International Stadium are lined up to host the championship matches):

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.

Looking Ahead from the Club World Cup and COVID-19

The 2020 FIFA Club World Cup was played out in Doha, Qatar, in February 2021 after the original tournament dates were rescheduled due to COVID-19. The competition was a success in terms of international football; FC Bayern Munich took the Club World Champions title and made history with their sixth trophy in a year, while Mexico’s Tigres UANL took second place after an unpredicted win against Brazil’s Palmeiras. And, with very few coronavirus cases detected (health and safety measures at the event were uncompromising) and an action-filled tournament played out in front of limited spectators (after a year of empty stands), the event was also a personal success for Qatar.

Looking forward to the Arab Cup, up to 450 million Arabs will watch the 2021 championship unfold, and many will be hoping to travel to Qatar for the event. Hopefully, with COVID vaccines now being rolled out worldwide, Qatar will be able to use this competition to concentrate on honing the fan experience for the 2022 World Cup rather than focussing on its crisis management capabilities.

Indeed, the 2021 tournament is being heralded as a precursor to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It will give the competition organisers a myriad of opportunities to test drive their operational plans, tournament infrastructure and associated facilities, and a chance for the Qatari national team to test their mettle against some top-class competition. The Arab Cup will also build on the region's growing excitement for the World Cup, which will be just one year away when the 2021 event is staged. And, deliver a perfect occasion for Arabs to unite under the umbrella of football, especially poignant for those caught up in the 2017-2020 blockade between Qatar and a number of its neighbouring countries.

As Nasser Al Khater, FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 Local Organising Committee CEO and Qatar 2022 CEO, recently said, “It has been a privilege to host the FIFA Club World Cup for the second time. Despite the pandemic, we have been able to build on the successful hosting of the 2019 edition and continue to develop our plans and procedures for the FIFA Arab Cup later this year and of course the World Cup in 2022. Events such as these shine a light on every area of our operations and play a vital role in preparing our country for the biggest tournament of all in under two years' time.”

Main image: QatarLiving

Published: February 18, 2021
Last updated: February 18, 2021
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