x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Clearer format for Etisalat Cup will get straight to the points

As the Etisalat Cup's group stage reaches a drawn-out end, John McAuleyreflects on the situation that saw Al Wahda's points predicament take more than a month to resolve.

Al Wahda's Dino Djulbic rises above Al Ain's Alex Brosque in their Etisalat Cup clash earlier this season.
Al Wahda's Dino Djulbic rises above Al Ain's Alex Brosque in their Etisalat Cup clash earlier this season.

Long considered a competition of little significance, among the top teams at least, considerable cheer accompanies tonight's conclusion of the Etisalat Cup's protracted group stage.

However, the cup's format, and the league's delayed decision to return three docked points to Al Wahda, has not helped its second-rate status.

As of the penultimate set of fixtures, Al Wahda and Al Jazira have qualified for the semi-finals by topping Group A and Group B respectively.

Group C is a straight shoot-out between Ajman and Shabab for the top spot, meaning that tonight's meeting of the two, in theory, should inspire added conviction.

However, determining the identity of the fourth semi-final spot demands a calculator, a mathematics degree and more than a little patience.

Basically, the runners-up with the highest points total progress, although that Group C involves four sides instead of five complicates things.

Considerably.

A clearer structure is therefore required. Also, Wahda's points predicament should not have taken more than a month to resolve, as the confusion prompted Al Ain to field an understrength side in the last round and thus jeopardise advancement, irrespective of their crammed calendar.

If the cup is to ever enjoy an elevated standing, its make-up and methods need revision.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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