Sunday 05 December 2021, 07:00

Three spots up for grabs as first groups conclude

  • Concluding matches of Groups A and B set to take place on 6 December

  • Three Group A teams battling it out to join Qatar in the knockout stage

  • All to play for in Group B

The group stages of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ are coming to a close, with the final Group A and B matches set to decide which three teams from the two sections will join the hosts in the quarter-finals.

Everything is still to play for, with every team in with a chance of qualifying. In Group A, Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain are vying to join group winners Qatar in the knockout stages, while competition for the two qualifying places in Group B also remains fierce. United Arab Emirates, who sit top of the pool, have yet to book their place in the last eight, despite winning both their opening matches. looks ahead to Matchday 5 of the competition, which promises plenty of excitement and drama.

Monday 6 December (all times local)

Group A Oman-Bahrain (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, 22:00) Qatar-Iraq (Al Bayt Stadium, 22:00) Group B Syria-Mauritania (Al Janoub Stadium, 18:00) Tunisia-UAE (Al Thumama Stadium, 18:00)

All or nothing Syria’s victory over Tunisia in their second game not only kept their slim hopes of qualifying alive, but also gave hope to their next opponents, Mauritania. The Lions of Chinguetti lost both their opening matches, to Tunisia and UAE. Yet, despite that rocky start, they still have a chance to qualify for the next round. Both sides need a win to go through and then hope for the result in the other fixture in the group to go their way. A Syrian victory would put them in a strong position to qualify, while Mauritania must win big against the Qasioun Eagles and hope Tunisia suffer a heavy defeat to UAE to stand any chance of qualifying. Permutations aplenty UAE go into their last group game in a strong position. A draw will be enough for the Sons of Zayed to book their place in the latter stages as group winners, and even defeat would not spell the end of their hopes, though it would leave them dependent on the outcome of Syria’s match against Mauritania. As for Tunisia, they must win if are to top the group and avoid facing hosts Qatar in the quarter-finals. The Carthage Eagles, who will be without the suspended Ben Romdhane Ali, can still qualify even if they draw or lose, in which case their fate will hinge on that Syria-Mauritania match.

Too close to call Although Qatar are assured a place in the last eight as Group A winners, their final fixture against Iraq remains an important one for both teams. The two have met 35 times, and this 36th meeting promises to be an entertaining one. While the hosts are looking to secure their third consecutive victory and maintain their unbeaten run in the tournament, a victory for Iraq will be enough to see them qualify for the knockout stages, irrespective of the other result in Group A. Old rivalries renewed The Oman-Bahrain fixture is the oldest rivalry among this year’s Arab Cup competitors, with the two sides having faced each other 40 times previously. The history books show there is little between them, with Bahrain having won 12 of those games, just one more than Oman, and the remaining 17 meetings ending in draws. Bahrain’s last triumph over Oman came 11 years ago, at the 2010 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship, when the experienced Ismaeel Abdullatif scored twice to guide his team to victory. Will the man they call Samaa be able to recreate those heroics on Monday and lead his country to the quarter-finals?

The quotes

“Iraq are still in with a chance of qualifying for the next round, so our sole focus is on beating Qatar. It won’t be a walk in the park because we’re coming up against a strong team that has won two games on the bounce, but I have every confidence in my players’ abilities and I’m sure we can come out on top.” Iraq coach Zeljko Petrovic “We’re going into the Tunisia match with the aim of taking home the three points. Beating a strong side like Tunisia will give the players a huge confidence boost and allow us to finish top of the group, sending out a strong signal of intent to the other teams.” UAE defender Bandar Al Ahbabi