Asian Federation Cup: Al-Arabi Set to Clash with Al-Zawraa in First Match

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BASRA, Sept 17: Al-Arabi is set to commence their journey in the Asian Federation Cup as they pay a visit to Al-Zawraa in Iraq at the Basra City Stadium, marking the inaugural round of matches in Group Three. Group Three also features Bahrain’s Riffa and Lebanon’s Al-Najma, who are slated to compete today as well. This tournament adopts a round-robin format with both home and away fixtures, deviating from the previous editions that employed a single-round knockout system. In the previous edition, “Al-Arabi” fell short of advancing after a 2-1 defeat to Omani side Al-Seeb in the West Asia region semi-finals. As they step onto the field, Al- Arabi seeks a robust and fitting start in the tournament, relying on their homegrown talents. This includes players from the Olympic team, Bandar Al-Salama, and Badr Al-Mutairi, who have received the green light to join the team today from the Football Association.

Al Arabi line up for group photo

Furthermore, the foreign player roster has been finalized with the one-season acquisition of Moroccan Walid Sabbar, joining Nigerian Anayo Iwuala, Algerian Sofiane Bouchar, Senegalese Mamadou Thiam, and Moroccan Hamza Khaba. Under the guidance of their German coach, Thomas Berdardic, Al-Arabi aims to secure valuable points in this match. However, Berdardic is acutely aware that this task won’t come easy, given the formidable strength of the opponent and the absence of several key players. Notably, Suleiman Abdulghafour, Sultan Al-Anzi, and Salman Al-Awadhi will be missing from the lineup due to a three-match suspension imposed by the Asian Football Confederation, stemming from incidents in the previous edition against Omani side Al-Seeb.

The participation of Hussein Ashkanani, who sustained a muscle injury during the U23 Asian Cup qualifiers last week, remains uncertain. Despite these notable absences, Al-Arabi boasts a squad teeming with local talents renowned for their potential and extensive experience. Key figures include Hassan Hamdan, Abdullah Ammar, Hamad Al-Qalaf, Ali Khalaf, Badr Tarek, Saif Al-Hashan, Issa Walid, and Jumaa Aboud. The match will unfold without the presence of spectators, in accordance with the Asian Football Confederation’s decision, following incidents that occurred during Al-Arabi’s match against Iran’s Zob Ahan in the previous edition of the tournament.

Meanwhile, under the guidance of Egyptian coach Hossam El-Badry, Al-Zawraa aims to leverage their home advantage and exploit the absence of their opponents to secure a favorable outcome. They have diligently prepared with a training camp that commenced in Baghdad, including three previous friendly matches. They drew one against Al-Mosul and clinched victories against Salah al-Din and Al-Rusafa with scores of 3-0 and 4-0, respectively. Their most recent preparatory match ended in a 2-2 draw against Al-Kahraba last Thursday, held at the Al-Fayhaa Stadium in Basra.

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