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2023 Asian Cup: 6 months to go

2023 Asian Cup: 6 months to go
Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews
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Seven months since Qatar hosted the world’s biggest football competition, the country is gearing up again to host yet another major tournament. In partnership with Media City Qatar.

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Seven months since Qatar hosted the world’s biggest football competition, the country is gearing up again to host yet another major tournament. This time, it will be a celebration of Asian football coming to the gulf, as the 2023 Asian Cup will be hosted by Qatar for the third time.

With six months to go until the tournament kicks off, we now know the stadiums that will be used and all 24 teams that will be competing. And with Qatar being the reigning champions after winning the last edition of the tournament in 2019, they’ll be relishing the chance to defend their crown on home turf in January.

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The group stage draw for the tournamentNA

The draw that took place in Doha in May presented some intriguing groups. The hosts have been joined in Group A by China and Lebanon, as well as first timers Tajikistan.

China have never won the competition, but twice have been runners-up. Their international team is starting to hit form again after years of struggles due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition was originally scheduled to take place in China this year, but due to the pandemic had to be moved to the Middle-East. Their main objective will be to get out of the group stage. Meanwhile, Tajikistan will be making their debut in the competition after only being declared as an independent nation 30 years ago.

In Group B, 2015 winners Australia will be looking to keep creating happy memories in Qatar after capturing the imagination of their country and hearts of the world during the 2022 World Cup. For the first time in their history they made it out of the group stage, and gave eventual tournament winners Argentina a really competitive game in the round of 16, despite in the end losing 2-1 to Lionel Scaloni’s side in a tight contest. They’re joined by Uzbekistan, Syria and India, all of which have never won the competition and will be looking to get out of a competitive group.

Group C contains Iran, who beat Wales in the World Cup group stages despite narrowly missing out on qualification for the round of 16, along with the UAE, Hong Kong and Palestine. Group D contains the team with the record amount of wins in this competition, Japan. They were a big part of why the World Cup was a tournament to remember last year, as they took shock wins against European heavyweights Germany and Spain.

Heung-Min Son’s Korea Republic are expected to get out of Group E comfortably, while Saudi Arabia, the only team to actually beat Argentina at the World Cup, are the top seed in Group F. That win was a major consolation for the country’s early exit and certainly gave them a platform to build on for this tournament.

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Saudi Arabia took a shock win vs ArgentinaNA

There are some really high quality teams in those groups, but as alluded to before, Qatar will be really desperate to lead the way in this competition. They will become the first country to host the tournament three times, having done so already in 1988 and 2011. But this time, the addition of their World Cup stadiums as venues will make the tournament even more special.

Six of the eight stadiums that hosted games in 2022 will be used again for the Asian Cup; Al Janoub, Al Bayt, Ahmad Bin Ali, Education City, the Khalifa International Stadium and Al Thumama. Compared with the World Cup, Lusail Stadium and Stadium 974 have been replaced with Qatar Sports League grounds Jassim bin Hamad and Abdullah bin Khalifa.

Jassim al Jassim, COO of the tournament, told us how much the country is looking forward to building on their logistical World Cup success.

“It’s a great opportunity for those who could not attend the World Cup to come to the Asian Cup. I also think it’s a great time for them to enjoy, in January, when the weather is going to be amazing for football and its fans. So I think we have very high expectations for people coming to Qatar for this tournament.”

On the pitch, their performance on the pitch in 2022 didn’t quite go as planned, and they will be keen to show they are a lot better than their results suggested. Their manager for the World Cup, Felix Sanchez of Portugal, has now left his post, meaning a new era for the team as Sanchez fellow countryman Carlos Queiroz has taken the reins.

As the current Asian champions there will be a bit of pressure on the side to go deep into the tournament again, so what are their chances of lifting the trophy for a second consecutive time?

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Ex-Iran manager Carlos Queiroz is the new Qatar bossNA

“Well, a lot has changed since the World Cup. It’s a new look team with a new coach, Carlos Queiroz,” explained Aaron Fernandez, Road to 2022 Qatar ambassador.

“Queiroz has opened the window for many young players to come through who have been watching this team develop over the years. So it’ll be interesting to see how they perform and I’m pretty confident they’ll do well.”

So, a lot of eyes once again on Qatar both on and off the pitch as they gear up to host the Asian Cup. Just six months until the big tournament kicks off and Qatar get to repeat their successful hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

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