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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - 2021 FIFA Arab Cup quarterfinals preview: Qatar host UAE as Algeria and Morocco meet in all-North African showdown
The excitement in the Arab Cup steps up a level this weekend with the quarterfinal stage, starting with Tunisia’s match with Oman and Qatar hosting the UAE on Friday. There is a lot to look forward to in each of the four games.
UAE have a chance for some red hot revenge over Qatar
The all-AFC clash, the only one in the last eight, between the UAE and Qatar is a big one — a rematch from the semifinal of the 2019 Asian Cup when Qatar won in Abu Dhabi. The UAE can get some measure of revenge this weekend for that and for the 4-2 loss at the Gulf Cup later the same year, by knocking out the hosts. If they manage to do so, it will ensure that 2021 ends on a high regardless of what happens in the semifinal.
This is because Qatar are favorites — Asian champions, on home soil and with three wins out of three in the group stage, they have the potential to lift the Arab Cup on Dec. 18. And that is why this is a great opportunity for Bert van Marwijk’s men.
While Qatar won their group fairly comfortably, the UAE made it through after a last-minute winner against Mauritania. That followed uncertain performances and results in the final round of qualification for the World Cup, though the second round ended well. To dump Qatar out would give the Whites a major confidence boost heading into some crucial qualifiers in the first quarter of next year.
Much depends on the strikers. Qatar’s star Almoez Ali is looking sharp, but the UAE’s main attacker, Ali Mabkhout, has been struggling for form and, at the moment, for fitness. If the Al-Jazira forward can bounce back from injury and can recover his scoring touch, the UAE have a chance.
Impressive Morocco face toughest test against Algeria
If the European-based stars were here, this would be a mouth-watering clash between two North African giants, but there is still much to look forward to.
Morocco were the best team in the group stage. They were one of only two, along with Qatar, to win all three games and were the only defense not to concede a single goal. This is a team that does not focus on stars, but is a cohesive unit that works hard on and off the ball with an impressive pressing game. Midfielder Ayoub El Amloud is injured, but Morocco have the strength in depth and the team ethic to plug any gaps.
Algeria, meanwhile, will look to the goal-scoring prowess of Baghdad Bounedjah to get them through, but the Fennecs have to ensure that he gets the right service. There are no real absences. Yassine Titraoui is out, but is unlikely to have started anyway.
Whoever wins this game will be looking good for the title, but while Morocco start as slight favorites, we may get to see just how good they really are.
Egypt should not underestimate Jordan
Egypt topped their group only by receiving one fewer yellow cards than Algeria and are strong favorites for this clash even with the news that they are missing three players. Right-back Akram Tawfiq is suspended while fellow defenders Ahmed Hegazi and Ayman Ashraf are injured. At least attacking midfielder Mohamed Magdy Afsha, scorer of the winning goal against Lebanon, returns.
Jordan have absences of their own. Center-back Mohammed Al-Dmeiri and midfielder Ahmed Thaer will likely miss out, and with star forward and captain Baha Faisal injured while playing Morocco, they may find it a little more difficult to take advantage of the under-strength Egyptian defense.
Jordan had something of an up-and-down group stage, but ended up progressing comfortably behind Morocco. There was a 1-0 win over a young Saudi Arabia team that should have been more convincing. A 4-0 loss to Morocco was followed by a 5-1 win over Palestine that was somewhat flattering.
The work ethic is always there, however. Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz has made all the right noises about taking Jordan seriously and knows the team well from his time with Iran. Egypt should make it through, but it will be a tough encounter against a strong and committed team.
Oman can show their mettle against Tunisia
Oman have been going well in qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Well-organized and able to counterattack at speed, the Reds have done enough to show that September’s win over Japan in Japan was no fluke. In this competition, it is no surprise to see them in the last eight.
Only a last-minute goal denied Oman a draw against hosts and Asian champions Qatar. Now they have a real test against Tunisia, their first non-Asian opponent in a competitive game for a long time indeed.
It is a great chance for Oman to show what they can do, but that defense is going to come up against the top scorer of the competition.
Seifeddine Jaziri is a latecomer to the national team, but has scored seven goals this year for Tunisia. The mobile striker will present a major challenge to Oman and the North Africans are also boosted by the return of midfielder Yassine Chikhaoui.
Tunisia are favorites, but may find Oman a tougher nut to crack than they think.
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