Tuesday 30 November 2021, 23:00

Hosts, Tunisia and UAE start with a bang

  • Excitement and entertainment abounded on the opening day of the FIFA Arab Cup

  • Tunisia, Qatar and UAE registered wins, while Iraq snatched a 98th-minute equaliser

  • The Al Bayt and Ras Abou Aboud Stadiums were also inaugurated amid spectacular scenes

The opening matchday of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ had promised fireworks on and off the park, and it delivered handsomely.

After goals galore in the first match were followed by heart-stopping drama in the second, a dazzling ceremony preceded Qatari hearts being sent soaring by Abdulaziz Hatem’s match-winning header.

The United Arab Emirates then became the third team to take maximum points from their opening match, with an assured 2-1 win over Syria, ensuring that Bert van Marwijk’s men followed in the footsteps of the hosts and Tunisia.

FIFA.com looks back on a historic day of football in Qatar.


The moments

Patience pays off for history-making Jaziri Seifeddine Jaziri earned his first cap way back in January 2016 and, for a long time, feared that it would also be his last. But after spending four years and eight months awaiting a recall to the Tunisia fold, he has been making an impression lately and enjoyed a hard-earned moment in the sun today. Smashing home the FIFA Arab Cup’s first-ever goal earned the Zamalek star a place in the record books, but better was to follow as he added a superb backheeled second before leaving the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium with a well-deserved Man of the Match award.

Iraq’s luck finally turns For 97 minutes of their FIFA Arab Cup opener against Oman, Iraq must have thought that it simply wasn’t to be their day. Their luck looked to be out when Mohammed Qasim and Ahmed Farhan both rattled the woodwork in the first half and those fears seemed to be confirmed when Munaf Younus’s international debut was cut short by injury and team-mate Yaser Kasim received a red card. Worse followed as they conceded a penalty from which Salaah Al Yahyaei gave Oman the lead and then, even when they earned a stoppage-time spot-kick of their own, it was saved! But fate and fortune finally smiled on the Iraqis when VAR showed that goalkeeper Ahmed Al Rawahi had strayed off his line, enabling Hasan Abdulkareem to snatch a 98th-minute equaliser with the retake.

Skipper settles Qatari nerves After being thrilled by the Opening Ceremony and wowed by the sights and sounds of the amazing Al Bayt Stadium, the Qatar fans were left underwhelmed by a frustrating opening hour of football. But when Akram Afif’s inviting crosses started picking holes in a stuffy and well-organised Bahrain defence, all it needed was someone to provide the finishing touch. Step forward captain Abdulaziz Hatem, who charged through to bullet home an unstoppable header and get the hosts off to a morale-boosting start.

Canedo the creator – for good and bad Caio Canedo was on fire in the first half of the day’s final match, opening the scoring with a flashing header in 24 minutes before cleverly setting up Ali Saleh for a second just six minutes later. The UAE star then went on to claim yet another assist in the second half… only this time at the wrong end. Fortunately for Canedo, the slack pass that allowed Ward Al Slamh in to bring Syria back into the match didn’t prove costly, and no-one was more relieved than the Rio-born forward when the final whistle sounded.

The stat

7 – All but one of the eight FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ arenas have now been inaugurated after Al Bayt and Ras Abu Aboud Stadiums were unveiled today. The last to take its bow is the Lusail Stadium: venue for next year’s FIFA World Cup Final.

The quote

"Bahrain have a well organised team with some top quality [players]. But I feel we had better chances and deserved the points. All the teams in this group are very equal, so we need to be at our best in every game because it's the small details that will make the difference." Felix Sanchez, Qatar coach

Next up

Wednesday 1 December

Group C: Morocco-Palestine (Al Janoub Stadium, 19:00) Saudi Arabia-Jordan (Education City Stadium, 22:00) Group D: Algeria-Sudan (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, 13:00) Egypt-Lebanon (Al Thumama Stadium, 16:00)