BAHRAIN’S Helio Sousa has finalised a 23-player senior men’s national team that will be flying the kingdom’s flag in the 2019 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship in Iraq.
The tournament has already begun but Bahrain’s first match is scheduled on Sunday. The nationals are scheduled to leave tomorrow for the Iraqi city of Erbil, where their group matches will be played.
Along with the players, 15 officials are flying with the Bahraini delegation. This includes Sousa and his coaching and support staff.
The squad was announced by the Bahrain Football Association. The players’ roster includes three goalkeepers, seven defenders, nine midfielders and four strikers.
Some of the leading names on the squad include international regulars Ismaeel Abdullatif, Mohammed Al Rumaihi, Sami Al Hossaini, Sayed Dhiya Saeed, Mohammed Al Hardan, Abdulwahab Al Malood, Waleed Al Hayam and Sayed Mohammed Jaffar, to name a few.
The WAFF competition will be Bahrain’s first tournament under newly signed head coach Sousa.
Nine teams are taking part. They have been divided into two groups for the first round. Group ‘A’ features hosts Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon; while Group ‘B’ is comprised of Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Matches in Group ‘A’ are being held in Karbala, while Group ‘B’ games are taking place in Erbil.
Bahrain’s first game on Sunday will be against their Jordanian counterparts. Their next match will be against Saudi Arabia on August 7, and then they play Kuwait on August 10.
Following a single round-robin, only the winner of each group will move on from this round to lock horns in the title game. This competition format is being held in the competition for the first time.
The champions will take home $100,000 in prize money, while the runners-up will get $50,000.
This year’s tournament is the ninth edition of the WAFF Championship. Iraq are hosting for the first time. The tournament was meant to be held in December of 2017 in Amman, Jordan, but was postponed to a later date. It was then moved to Iraq and was expected to be held in November of last year, but it was again postponed to the current dates.
Bahrain are taking part for the fourth time. They are looking to finish higher than third, which was their best of the competition to date. They claimed that placing in the previous edition of the championship, which took place in 2014 in Doha.