Tuesday 14 December 2021, 00:00

Semi-final summit for regional rivals and continental champions

  • The FIFA Arab Cup has reached its penultimate stage

  • Mouthwatering clash between Egypt and Tunisia

  • Qatar takes on Algeria at Al Thumama Stadium

The quarter-finals of the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ certainly produced their share of excitement. On Friday, Qatar trashed the UAE 5-0 while Tunisia beat Oman 2-1. Then the following day, Egypt came from behind to sink Jordan after extra time, and Algeria prevailed against Morocco on penalties.

Now just four sides remain in contention for this coveted title: Egypt, who take on Tunisia, and Qatar, who face Algeria. The winners will then square off in next Saturday’s final at Al Bayt Stadium and the losers contest the third-place match at Stadium 974 earlier the same day.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Semi-finals Tunisia-Egypt (Stadium 974, 18:00 local time) Qatar-Algeria (Al Thumama Stadium, 22:00 local time)

Special match for Tunisian quartet The meeting of the Carthage Eagles and the Pharaohs will be particularly special for Tunisians Ali Maaloul, Seifeddine Jaziri, Ferjani Sassi and Hamza Mathlouthi. Both Jaziri and Mathlouthi currently play for Egypt’s Zamalek, while Maaloul plies his trade with fellow Cairo club Al-Ahly. For his part, Sassi was one of Zamalek’s most prominent players last year before his move to Al Duhail in Qatar. The game promises to see a renewed mini battle between Sassi and Egypt’s Al-Ahly midfielder Amro Elsoulia.

Egyptian quartet a doubt Egypt and Tunisia encounters have always been hard fought and frequently decided by small details. The most recent match between the pair saw Egypt win 3-1 on 16 November 2018 during the 2019 AFCON qualifiers. The Pharaohs started their campaign at this Arab Cup with a narrow victory over Lebanon, before hitting their stride with a 5-0 defeat of Sudan and a draw with Algeria to win their group. In the last eight, they came from behind to beat Jordan 3-1. For all that, the team have fitness concerns about Mohamed Elshenawy, Ahmed Hegazy, Ayman Ashraf and Hamdy Fathy, who all continue having treatment.

Bealili ready and Bounedjah available Algeria’s Youcef Belaili resumed training on Tuesday and has been passed fit to face Qatar despite needing hospital treatment for a head injury after the Morocco game. Baghdad Bounedjah will also be available after completing the six-day concussion protocol that followed his injury against Egypt. This match will be a special one for Belaili, Bounedjah, Mehdi Tahrat and Djamel Benlamri, four Fennec players who ply their trade in Qatar and know many of their opponents well.

Asian champions face African counterparts The Qatar-Algeria match is also a showdown between the reigning Asian and African champions, following their respective continental triumphs in 2019. The hosts, for their part, are the only last-four side to have won all four of their games so far, They were too strong for Bahrain, Oman and Iraq in the group stage, before seeing off UAE in the quarter-finals. Al Annabi, who also went unbeaten during their Asian Cup triumph, have had the most potent attack at the Arab Cup, finding the net 11 times so far, compared to 10 for Egypt, nine for Algeria and eight for Tunisia. Interestingly, the most recent encounter between Qatar and Algeria was a friendly that Qatar won 1-0. The Algerian Djamel Belmadi was then the coach of Qatar, while Christian Gourcuff was at the helm of Les Fennecs.

The quotes

"We’ll face a strong team with experienced players, and it’ll be a very difficult game against Algeria. We aim to continue our successful run and win the title. We want to make history.” Qatar captain Hassan Alhaydos

"All the teams in this tournament are strong. We’re now focused on the Tunisia match. I hope we’ll all be ready for it and that we can go on to reach the final and win it." Egypt captain Amro Elsoulia