BAHRAIN will be playing in the opening match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup UAE 2019 against the hosts, it was announced yesterday.
The match between the two Gulf nations is scheduled for January 5. It will be played at 43,000-capacity Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and it is scheduled for a 7pm kick-off, Bahrain time.
The full match schedule for the continent’s premier competition, held every four years, was released last night.
Bahrain’s clash with the UAE will be the lone fixture on opening day.
Matches in the tournament will be held at eight different venues, including Zayed Sports City Stadium, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and Al Nahyan Stadium, all in Abu Dhabi; Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain; Al Maktoum Stadium and Rashid Stadium in Dubai; and Sharjah Stadium.
The final, to be held nearly a month after the opening on February 1, will return to Zayed Sports City Stadium.
Bahrain and the UAE are both in Group ‘A’ for the first round of the competition. Following their opening encounter, Bahrain next take on Thailand on January 10 at Al Maktoum Stadium. Their third and final group game against India will then be held on January 14 at Sharjah Stadium.
There are five other groups in the tournament’s first stage, making for the Asian Cup’s largest-ever field of 24 teams.
Group ‘B’ comprises Australia, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. Group ‘C’ features South Korea, China, Kyrgyz Republic and the Philippines. Group ‘D’ consists of Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen. Group ‘E’ include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea. Group ‘F’ features Japan, Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan.
After a single round-robin in each group, the top two teams plus the four best third-placed teams advance to the Round of 16.
Next year’s Asian Cup will be Bahrain’s sixth participation in the tournament. Their best finish was in 2004, when they claimed fourth place overall out of 16 participating teams.
In the previous edition in 2015 held in Australia, the Bahrainis failed to make it past the group stage after losing two of their three games.