Hosts UAE in Group A for 2019 AFC Asian Cup

Hosts UAE in Group A for 2019 AFC Asian Cup
Two Emirates Airlines air hostesses pose next to the official AFC Asian Cup trophy during the official draw event for the 2019 edition of the tournament in Dubai on Friday (AFP)

Dubai - The Official Draw for the tournament, the biggest tournament in Asia, was held at the Armani Hotel at the iconic Burj Khalifa on Friday night

By James Jose

Published: Sat 5 May 2018, 9:08 PM

The UAE have been placed in a tricky group for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 to be played on home soil.
The Official Draw for the tournament, the biggest tournament in Asia, was held at a slick ceremony at the Armani Hotel at the iconic Burj Khalifa on Friday night, and the UAE, as virtue of being the hosts, were top seeds placed in Group A. Joining them in the Group were the Sunil Chettri-led India, Thailand and Bahrain.

The tournament, which has also seen an increase in teams from 16 to 24, takes place from January 5 to February 1 next year at eight different venues in four cities - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Sharjah.
The 24 teams were spread across six groups and defending champions Australia were placed in Group B alongside Syria, Palestine and Jordan. Korea Republic, China, Kyrgyz Republic and the Philippines made up Group C, while Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen were in Group D.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and DPR Korea were found themselves in Group E with Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan making up the final Group F.
The UAE, coached by former Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni, will play Bahrain in the tournament opener at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on January 5. The venue will also host the final.
The UAE, who were runners-up in 1996 when the tournament was held on home soil, finished third in the previous edition in Australia in 2015.
AFC General Secretary Dato' Windsor John conducted the draw along with Iranian legend Ali Daei, Indian captain Sunil Chettri, Philippines captain Phil Younghusband and China's Sun Jihai.
There were many firsts that were announced over the course of the ceremony hosted by legendary broadcaster John Dykes, among them being increase in the total prize money, a glittering new trophy, the Official Match Ball as well as the Official Mascots of the tournament.
The prize purse has been increased to a whopping $15 million, making it the richest competition in Asian football. The winners stand to earn $5 million, while the runners-up will get $3 million. All 24 teams will receive a participation fee of $200,000.
The new trophy, designed by Thomas Lyte, resembles a Lotus flower, with the petals representing the five regional zones of the AFC. A team of 12 craftsman spent more than 400 hours creating the trophy, including 230 hours of hammering by hand to create the organic shape from flat sheets of sterling silver.
The new trophy, which replaces the one since the inaugural edition in 1956, was unveiled by AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and former UAE international Zuhair Bakheet.
Mansour and Jarrah (the falcon) are the Official Mascots of the tournament which runs under the slogan: 'Bringing Asia Together.'
"The Asian Football Family. Tonight is special. It marks the kick off of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019," Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said at the ceremony.
"Asia's top 24 teams will compete in the greatest ever Asian Cup in 246 days. The fact that the AFC is here in the UAE demonstrates the country's exceptional ability to stage world class events. Tonight, we celebrate a new chapter in the glorious history of the Asian Cup here in the UAE.
A bright and glittering future for football in Asia. I have no doubt that the UAE, one of the Continent's, most dynamic and visionary country will be the perfect stage for this historic tournament. We are all determined that the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will be the greatest tournament we have ever held. And this event in such an iconic venue in an iconic city is the perfect way to kick off the new era of Asian football," he added.
Meanwhile, Major General Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, the Vice Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Sports, said: "It is my honour to welcome you to the AFC Asian Cup draw. Hospitality is at the heart of the UAE. Do not hesitate to approach our team no matter how trivial it would. In the next 246 days, we will play host to a unique football tournament, in fact the largest sporting to be held in the UAE.
"We will leave no stone unturned, will disappoint none and make it a roaring success. We welcome the teams to the UAE with open arms. I hope you will come to think of this country as a home away from home. It will be a month long celebration of football which brings together the entire UAE and Asia."

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