Stern tests and rivalries renewed on day one

The FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ will get underway on Tuesday with four matches across Groups A and B. Arab fans are eagerly anticipating the fierce competition and renewed rivalries in a tournament that will be held under the FIFA banner for the first time.

Although the opening match is set to take place at the Ahmed Ben Ali Stadium, in what will be an all-African affair between Tunisia and Mauritania, all eyes will be on the Al Bayt Stadium, where the opening ceremony will take place. The latter is set to feature a fireworks’ display and musical renditions, in addition to an artistic performance providing a brief history of the Arab region. After the festivities, Qatar, hosts and current AFC Asian Cup holders, take on Bahrain.

Schedule: Tuesday 30 November 2021 (all times local)

Group A: Iraq-Oman (Al Janoub Stadium, 16.00) Qatar-Bahrain (Al Bayt Stadium, 19.30) Group B: Tunisia-Mauritania (Ahmad Ben Ali Stadium, 13:00) UAE-Syria (Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, 22:00)

Tough test for the hosts

Although Qatar go into the tournament as one of the favourites, they can expect a stern examination from their group rivals, all of whom hail from the Gulf region and all of whom have faced them several times before. The first test for Felix Sanchez’s side will be against Bahrain, who were crowned champions of both the Gulf Cup and the West Asian Football Federation Championship in 2019. The hosts will try to get off to the best possible start by ending a series of failures against Bahrain – their last victory against them coming in a friendly all the way back in 2004. A fresh start

Things will be no less difficult in the second match of Group A, with Iraq hoping to make up for a string of disappointing performances in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers, which ultimately led to the resignation of Dutchman Dick Advocaat. They come up against an Omani team led by coach Branko Ivankovic, who has successfully put together a side that has performed well so far in the final round of the Asian qualifiers and has shown great consistency. Eagles out to soar

Tunisia begin their Group B campaign against Mauritania in what will be an all-African affair. The Eagles of Carthage are looking to extend their dominance in this fixture after the two teams met twice last month in the second round of the African qualifiers for Qatar 2022. Mondher Kabaier’s Tunisian side won the first match 3-0 and drew the second 0-0. The rematch

The match between UAE and Syria promises excitement aplenty after the pair met in an enthralling contest during a World Cup qualifier back in September. UAE will be hoping their star striker, Ali Mabkhout, continues his fine goalscoring form against a Syrian team led by reappointed Romanian coach, Valeriu Tita, who will be aiming to get something out of this fixture before the two teams meet again next January for the return match of the Qatar 2022 qualifiers.

The quotes

"Our opponents have the benefit of home advantage, but we’re used to playing in front of large crowds and can promise our fans that we’ll do our upmost to achieve a positive result." Bahrain's Abbas Alasfoor “Mauritania have come a long way and are by no means easy opponents. We have no choice but to win, and that will give us the self-confidence to play the rest of the tournament with high morale.” Tunisia's Ferjani Sassi