Friday 10 December 2021, 17:00

Rivals clash as quarter-finals conclude

  • Pharaohs take on in-form Jordanians

  • Morocco against Algeria in Maghreb derby

  • At stake – final two berths in semi-finals

After the conclusion of the group stage on Tuesday, the knockout phase of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ kicked off yesterday with two enticing fixtures. The drama continues today with Egypt taking on Jordan, followed by the much-anticipated Morocco-Algeria derby.

The Egyptians managed to top Group D by the finest of margins, pipping Algeria to the post on fair play points, while Jordan earned their quarter-final berth with wins over both Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

For their part, Morocco qualified with flying colours, maintaining a 100 per cent record in Group C. previews the final two quarter-finals on a day that will complete the line-up for the last four at Qatar 2021.

Saturday 11 December (all times local)

Egypt-Jordan (Al Janoub Stadium, 18:00) Morocco-Algeria (Al Thumama Stadium, 22:00)

Tacticians meet again The Egypt-Jordan clash will see rivalries renewed between the two national teams’ coaches, Carlos Queiroz and Adnan Hamad. The pair have locked horns twice before in friendlies. Their first encounter came in February 2012, when Queiroz was coach of IR Iran and Hamad was at the helm of Jordan, and ended in a 2-2 draw. The two then met again in May of that same year, with the match ending in a goalless draw. Which tactician will prevail this weekend in Qatar?

Defensive absences Egypt’s draw with Les Fennecs on Tuesday exacted quite a toll on the Pharaohs’ squad, with their centre-back pairing of Ayman Ashraf and Ahmed Hegazy both going off injured and set to miss the showdown with Jordan. The duo are among Egypt’s most important players here in Qatar, especially defensive stalwart Hegazy, on whom coach Queiroz has relied heavily.

Selection headache Morocco coach Hussein Ammouta must choose who will lead the line between Soufiane Rahimi, Oualid Azaro and Karim El Barkaoui. Azaro came off the bench against Palestine and started against Jordan but is yet to score in this tournament, while Rahimi scored against Jordan. El Barkaoui, for his part, won and scored the penalty in the 1-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia, having suffered a head injury in the opener against Palestine and missed the Jordan game. As for the rearguard, it is expected that Achraf Dari will partner Badr Benoun in the centre of defence.

Main man returns Houssem Mrezigue returns to the Algeria side after the red card he picked up against Lebanon got him suspended for the Egypt game. He is expected to return to the Greens’ starting line-up, especially after his impressive performances in the opening two matches. Mrezigue, along with Yacine Brahimi, are considered the beating heart of this Algerian team. On the flip side, however, Les Fennecs will be without Yassine Titraoui for Saturday’s showdown with Morocco, with the player serving a suspension for a red card he picked up against Egypt.

Fennecs' unhappy memories Algeria will be anxious to avoid a repeat of their last outing against Morocco, when they lost by four goals. Rais Mbolhi, who has been Les Fennecs’ first-choice goalkeeper for the Arab Cup 2021, was between the sticks for that match, with forward El Arabi Soudani up front. Even Algeria’s coach for the Arab Cup, Madjid Bougherra, and assistant Djamel Mesbah were part of the squadhumbled in Marrakech.

The quotes

"The Morocco match will be tough, but we came here with the intention of winning the title. To achieve that, we have to overcome difficult opposition, and the game against Morocco is no exception." Yacine Brahimi, Algeria winger

"Since we’ve arrived, we’ve been in good spirits and very determined. We take each step together as a team. I want to thank the players for their fighting spirit against Algeria in a match that was not easy. We’ll fully prepare for the next game against Jordan. Our goal is to reach the final." Amro Elsoulia, Egypt midfielder