UAE will raise the bar, says Shaikh Salman

UAE will raise the bar, says Shaikh Salman

Unlike qualification for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the tournament’s new format also serves as qualification for the next Asian Cup.



By James Jose (senior Reporter)

Published: Sat 27 Jun 2015, 11:39 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:12 PM

Abu Dhabi — AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa believes that the UAE’s capabilities of hosting top-class sporting events will see them raise the bar when it comes to the AFC Asian Cup. The UAE will host the 17th edition of the Asian competition in 2019 in what is the second oldest continental football championship in the world after the Copa America.

The UAE previously hosted the competition in 1996 and have so far hosted 10 Fifa competitions in the past decade. They have also hosted the Under-20 World Cup, the Fifa Club World Cup twice and more recently the Fifa Under-17 World Cup. And Shaikh Salman reckoned that the UAE will set a new benchmark in four years time.

“The AFC is looking forward to see a successful organisation and an exceptional edition following the great success of the previous edition in Australia that had broken all records last January. The UAE will be facing a strong challenge, but I’m confident that the Higher Organising Committee will live up to the expectations and provide the highest standards of organisation,” Shaikh Salman said after he signed the Organising Association Agreement (OAA) with Yousuf Yaqoob Al Serkal, the UAE Football Association (UAEFA) President.

He also believed that the increase in teams from 16 to 24 following a new qualifying format will make the tournament more exciting. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to merge the qualification of the Asian Cup with the World Cup qualifiers.

Unlike qualification for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the tournament’s new format also serves as qualification for the next Asian Cup. As a result of this, the eight group winners, as well as the four best runners-up, will progress to the AFC Asian Cup as well as the final round of qualification for Russia 2018. The UAE, as hosts, have automatic qualification for the AFC Asian Cup.

With the next AFC Asian Cup expanded to 24 teams, the remaining 12 spots will be contested by the remaining 28 sides in a 24-team competition. The next 16 highest-ranked teams will be joined by eight winners of play-offs. The second qualifying round runs through nine months from June until March 2016, with the teams playing home and away in a round-robin format.

At the second-round draw, 40 teams were divided into eight groups of five teams each. This was done after 12 teams competed in the first round for a chance to join the 34 top ranked teams in Asia, who had automatically qualified for the second round.

“We have noticed that there have been some surprises during the first and second rounds of the joint qualifiers. It has added excitement and thrill to the competition. I think it has proved to be successful until now,” he said.

james@khaleejtimes.com


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