2019 AFC Asian Cup
|كأس آسيا 2019|
|Host country||United Arab Emirates|
|Dates||5 January – 1 February 2019|
|Teams||24 (from 1 confederation)|
|Venue(s)||8 (in 4 host cities)|
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup will be the 17th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the quadrennial international men's football championship of Asia organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It will be held in United Arab Emirates from 5 January to 1 February 2019. The United Arab Emirates was announced as the host for the tournament on 9 March 2015, with Iran being the only remaining bidder for the right to host the 2019 finals. It will be the second time that the United Arab Emirates hosts the tournament after the 1996 finals.
For the first time, the Asian Cup final tournament will be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format that had been used since 2004. Under this new format, the finalists will contest a group stage consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by a knockout stage of 16 teams. The host nation will automatically qualify for the final tournament, while the remaining 23 places will be determined among the other 45 national teams through a qualifying competition, running from March 2015 to March 2018, in which the first two rounds also serve as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification process for the AFC.
Australia will be the defending champions going into the tournament, having won the previous competition in 2015. The winner of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup will earn the right to participate in the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup which is to be hosted by a yet to be determined AFC association after 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts, Qatar, lost the rights. As the 2021 Confederations Cup host country will have already qualified as hosts, if they win the Asian Cup, the runner-up will qualify.
The bidding procedure and timeline for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup was approved at the AFC congress on 28 November 2012. The winning bid was originally set to be announced at an AFC congress in June, then November 2014. However, at its 60th Anniversary celebrations at the end of 2014, AFC gave the date of 'summer 2015' to when an announcement would be made.
In January 2015, AFC general secretary Alex Soosay said that Iran and the United Arab Emirates were the only two remaining bidders for the 2019 Asian Cup, and that the eventual hosts would be announced in March 2015.
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification process will determine the 24 participating teams for the tournament. In 2014, a proposal to merge the preliminary qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup with those of the AFC Asian Cup was ratified by the AFC Competitions Committee. The new qualification structure will take place in three stages, with the first two merging with the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification. In the first round, the lowest ranked teams played home-and-away over two legs to reduce the total number of teams to 40. In the second round, the 40 teams were divided into eight groups of five to play home-and-away round-robin matches, where the eight group winners and the four best group runners-up will qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals. In the third round, the next best 24 teams eliminated from second round will be divided into six groups of four and compete for the remaining slots of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
The following teams qualified for the tournament.
|United Arab Emirates||Hosts||9 March 2015||10th||2015||Runners-up (1996)|
|Qatar||Second Round Group C winners||17 November 2015||10th||2015||Quarter-finals (2000, 2011)|
|South Korea||Second Round Group G winners||13 January 2016||14th||2015||Winners (1956, 1960)|
|Japan||Second Round Group E winners||24 March 2016||9th||2015||Winners (1992, 2000, 2004, 2011)|
|Thailand||Second Round Group F winners||24 March 2016||7th||2007||Third Place (1972)|
|Saudi Arabia||Second Round Group A winners||24 March 2016||10th||2015||Winners (1984, 1988, 1996)|
|Australia||Second Round Group B winners||29 March 2016||4th||2015||Winners (2015)|
|Uzbekistan||Second Round Group H winners||29 March 2016||7th||2015||Fourth Place (2011)|
|Iran||Second Round Group D winners||29 March 2016||14th||2015||Winners (1968, 1972, 1976)|
|Syria||Second Round Group E runners-up||29 March 2016||6th||2011||Group Stage (1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2011)|
|Iraq||Second Round Group F runners-up||29 March 2016||9th||2015||Winners (2007)|
|China PR||Second Round Group C runners-up||29 March 2016||12th||2015||Runners-up (1984, 2004)|
The eight venues to host matches are Zayed Sports City Stadium, Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, Al-Maktoum Stadium and Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, and Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah.
|Zayed Sports City Stadium||Al Jazira Stadium||Al Nahyan Stadium|
|Capacity: 43,620 (plans to expand to 63,578)||Capacity: 42,056 (plans to expand)||Capacity: 12,000 (plans to expand)|
|Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium|
|Capacity: 12,000 (plans to expand)|
|Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium||Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium||Sharjah Stadium|
|Capacity: 25,965 (plans to expand)||Capacity: 16,000 (plans to expand)||Capacity: 11,073 (plans to expand)|
Zayed Sports City Stadium, one of three stadiums in Abu Dhabi, will stage both the opening match and the final. The match schedule itself will maximise the use of venues. At least five matches will be allocated to each venue, with every ground hosting at least one match in the knockout stage. The semi-finals will be played on different days in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. No city will host two matches on the same day – except in the final round of group stage matches when simultaneous kick-off is required. Unlike previous editions of the tournament, there will be no third/fourth place game.
The official logo of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup was unveiled on 23 January 2017 in Abu Dhabi during the drawing ceremony for the third round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification. The colors used in the logo were derived from the flag of the UAE. The seven hexagons formed by colored ribbons represents the seven emirates of the host country. The interlacing hexagon pattern of the logo was inspired from Islamic art, as well as the old Emirati tradition of using palm leaves, locally known as saf, in weaving. The outer circle along with the geometric design within it symbolizes the sport of football.
Concerns and controversies
Poor attendance records have been seen as a problem for the UAE in past tournaments, but Asian Cup officials are confident the tournament will attract significant numbers.
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