Hidden gems unearthed at FIFA Arab Cup
Tournament provided opportunity for unheralded players to shine
Sayoud set Algeria on way to title; teenage Mejbri impressed for Tunisia
We look at these and other talents to emerge at Qatar 2021
The curtain fell on the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ on 18 December with Algeria crowned worthy champions. By any measure, it was a successful tournament, allowing the stadia to be trialled before Qatar 2022™, as well as providing the opportunity for coaches to see their charges in competitive action before the all-important FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers resume early next year.
Quite a few players staked their claim for a first-team spot, so we decided to take a closer look at six promising talents who burst onto the scene in Qatar.
Amir Sayoud – Algeria
Although the attacking midfielder was not a regular starter for the Desert Foxes, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Sayoud it was who broke the deadlock in the final, when he came off the bench to score with a wonderful strike from outside the box. The goal will no doubt live long in the memory of Algerian fans, as well as the Al-Tai player.
Hannibal Mejbri – Tunisia
He may only be 18 years old, but Mejbri was one of keys to Tunisia’s second-place finish. He played in every match and lit up the midfield with his boundless energy. The Manchester United player was even voted man of the match in two of the Carthage Eagles’ six fixtures, proving to coach Mondher Kebaier that he is ready to challenge for a starting berth in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
Mohammed Nahiri – Morocco
Nahiri more than justified Hussein Ammouta's decision to call him up to the first team. The 30-year-old defender showcased his versatility during the Arab Cup, alternating between left and right-back. In addition to his defensive solidity, he showed considerable attacking flair, scoring against Palestine in the group stage as well as Algeria in the quarter-final.
Ahmed Refaat - Egypt
Prior to the Arab Cup, Ahmed Refaat had only ever earned one cap for the Pharaohs, a substitute appearance in a friendly against Uganda more than eight years ago. However, coach Carlos Queiroz clearly saw Refaat’s potential and used him as an impact sub. The wide player responded by netting twice in Qatar, including a wonderful strike against Sudan in the group stage and his vital goal in extra time against Jordan in the quarter-final. Speaking about his exceptional performances, Refaat said: "I’m happy with my contribution in the Arab Cup. I always try my best for the national team to increase my chances of getting selected."
Yazan Alnaimat – Jordan
Prior to the Arab Cup, Yazan Alnaimat was not a regular starter for Jordan and had just one international goal from a friendly against Bahrain last March. However, Qatar represented a fresh start for the 22-year-old, and he seized it to become one of the top marksmen at the event, where he netted three times in 178 minutes to win the adidas Bronze Shoe award. The 22-year-old forward was one of the finds of the tournament, and Jordan coach Adnan Hamad now has an ace up his sleeve for the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Oliver Kass Kawo – Syria
Kass Kawo represented his country for the first time in a group stage match against UAE. He then managed to bag his first goal for the Qasioun Eagles in his second outing, which happened to fall on his twentieth birthday, against eventual finalists Tunisia. The performances of the Swedish-born player were some consolation for Syria, who failed to progress to the knockout phase after their shock loss to Mauritania in their final group game.