With a month to go before the Emirates hosts the continental competition for the second time, John McAuley lists some facts you need to know about it
One month to go for Asian Cup: Lowdown on continental tournament being hosted by UAE
What is it?
The Asian Cup is a quadrennial football tournament organised by the Asian Football Confederation. First held in 1956, it is the second oldest continental football championship in the world after the Copa America. Australia are the reigning Asian champions following their success on home soil in 2015.
When is it?
The 2019 Asian Cup will take place in the UAE from January 5 to February 1 - only the second time the Emirates has played host. The country last staged the tournament in 1996, when the national team were defeated in the final on penalties by Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia. That remains the UAE’s best Asian Cup performance to date. Four years ago, they finished third.
Where do the matches take place?
Eight venues have been chosen across three emirates to stage the 51 matches. In Abu Dhabi, matches will be played at Zayed Sports City Stadium, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and Al Nahyan Stadium, while Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium will also host games. In Dubai, Al Maktoum Stadium and Rashid Stadium have been selected, as has Sharjah Stadium. The majority of the venues have undergone refurbishment ahead of the Asian Cup. Zayed Sports City will stage the opening match and the final.
For the first time, the Asian Cup will feature 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format employed between 2004 and 2015. Teams will be divided into six groups of four, with the top two sides and the four best third-placed sides progressing to the knockout stages. As hosts, the UAE qualified automatically, while the other 23 teams were determined by a qualification process that ran from March 2015 to March this year. Its first two rounds also served as part of qualification for the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
How do the groups shape up?
The draw for the tournament took place at the Armani Hotel in Dubai on May 4. Teams were seeded according to the Fifa world rankings as of April 2018. The 12 sides that booked entry by the conclusion of the second round of qualification were placed in Pots 1 and 2. As hosts, the UAE were in Pot 1.
GROUP A: UAE, Bahrain, India, Thailand
GROUP B: Australia, Syria, Jordan, Palestine
GROUP C: South Korea, China, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines
GROUP D: Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Yemen
GROUP E: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, North Korea
GROUP F: Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman, Turkmenistan
Who are the past winners?
Japan are the most successful team in tournament history having won the trophy a record four times: 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011. Saudi Arabia (3), Iran (3) and South Korea (2) are the event’s only other multiple winners. Israel, Kuwait, Iraq and Australia have all won it once. The last team to retain the title were Japan, in 2004.
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