Bahrain are aiming to launch the Asian Cup 2019 campaign on a winning note when they take on hosts UAE in a Group ‘A’ match at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi tonight.
The tournament opener kicks off at 7pm. Bahrain will play in Group ‘A’ along with hosts UAE, Thailand and India.
The championship has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams, with four teams each in six groups.
Bahrain team will look to get off to a winning start in tonight’s game against the UAE, who are expected to backed by thousands of home supporters.
The Bahrain team comprises 23 players – Sayed Shubbar Alawi, Abdulkareem Fardan, Yousif Habeeb, Sayed Redha Isa, Ahmed Merza, Ahmed Juma, Ahmed Abdulla, Waleed Al Hayyam, Sayed Mahdi Baqer, Ahmed Bu Ghammar, Hamad Shamsan, Abdulwahab Ali, Kumail Al Aswad, Jassim Al Shaikh, Ali Haram, Ali Madan, Mahdi Hemaidan, Sayed Dheya Saeed, Mohammed Marhoon, Jamal Rashid, Mohammed Al Romaihi, Abdulla Yousif and Sami Al Hussaini. They will be playing in red jerseys in all the three group matches. This was decided during a technical meeting held yesterday, in the presence of both Bahrain and UAE teams’ representatives and organising committee members.
Meanwhile, Bahrain Football Association president Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa arrived in Abu Dhabi to head the national team delegation in the championship.
Speaking after his arrival, Shaikh Ali said that the Bahrain team was competing in a historic tournament in this edition, which would witness a larger number of participating teams. He added that the AFC had allocated cash prizes for the top teams for the first time, thanks to the efforts of AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
Shaikh Ali expressed hope that the Bahrain team, which had been training under the supervision of coach Miroslav Soukup, would come up with remarkable performces in the tournament and go on to win the Asian Cup.
The UAE, runners-up as hosts in 1996, have lost the mercurial Omar Abdulrahman to injury but will also be buzzing after hosting the Fifa Club World Cup last month when local side Al Ain reached the final against Real Madrid.
Only one match will be played on the opening night while three matches are scheduled for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s opening match will be a Group ‘B’ encounter between Australia and Jordan at 2pm, which will be followed by a Group ‘A’ match between Thailand and India at 4.30pm. The third match will be held at 7pm between Palestine and Syria (Group ‘B’). The championship concludes on February 1.