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UAE to face Bahrain in 2019 Asian Cup opener
May 05, 2018
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Dubai: After more than three years of qualifying suspense, Asia’s best 24 teams finally discovered their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group Stage challengers on Friday in a grand spectacle at the UAE‘s iconic Burj Khalifa.

Hosts UAE, who were positioned in first place in Group A, will kick-off Asia’s most prestigious tournament against Bahrain at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 5, 2019.

The host nation will be looking to improve on their second place finish the last time the competition was held in the UAE in 1996, but will face formidable opponents in India and Thailand who complete the cast in Group A.

Meanwhile defending champions Australia have drawn in Group B with 2004 and 2011 quarter-finalists Jordan, Palestine, and Syria, who return to the competition following their absence in Australia 2015.

Continent powerhouses and 2015 finalists Korea Republic, who are on the hunt for their first title since 1960 were drawn in Group C with two-time runners-up China PR as well as two debutants in the UAE 2019 - Kyrgyz Republic and Philippines.

Asia’s best ranked side, Iran who are looking to secure their fourth title and their first since 1976 have been drawn in Group D alongside 2007 winners Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen, who will be appearing in their tournament since their unification in 1976.

In Group E, two time champions Saudi Arabia have been drawn with 2011 hosts Qatar, Lebanon, who will be returning to the competition for only the second time after a 19 year absence as well as DPR Korea.

The tournament’s most successful side with four titles, Japan are in Group F and will face Uzbekistan, who have progressed past the group stage for the last four consecutive editions of the competition as well as Oman and Turkmenistan.

The Zayed Sports City Stadium will also host the final on Feb. 1, 2019 after 28 days of enthralling action with the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and Al Nahyan Stadium hosting the remaining matches in Abu Dhabi.

Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium and the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium will host the matches in Al Ain and Sharjah Stadium in the Emirate of Sharjah. Al Maktoum Stadium and Al Rashid Stadium are the two venues in Dubai.

Record prize money

In an action-packed night graced by some of the biggest names in Asian football, the final draw also introduced a $14.8 million total prize money, the unveiling of a stunning new trophy, a cutting-edge Molten match ball and the launch of the tournament’s official mascots – Mansour and Jarrah.

The biggest-ever AFC Asian Cup is set to become the richest-ever edition after AFC President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa announced the introduction of $14.8 million in total prize money.

The ultimate winners at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Feb.1, 2019, will receive an impressive $5 million.

The AFC President, who made the announcement during the final draw said: “Tonight, we celebrate a new chapter in the glorious history of the Asian Cup here in the UAE.

“This is the second time the UAE has staged this competition and the fact that the competition has now doubled in size demonstrates how far Asian football has progressed in 22 years.

“In addition to more teams and more opportunities, the AFC wants to reward success. I am pleased to announce tonight that the prize money for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 will total almost 15 million dollars and the winners of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 will collect 5 million dollars.”

In addition to the purse prize for the winners, the AFC President also announced the runners-up will receive $3 million, with the two losing semi-finalists pocketing $1 million each. All 24 participating teams will also receive $200,000.

The prize money is just a host of enhancements introduced to strengthen the stature of Asia’s most prestigious competition.

The AFC President added: “I have no doubt that the UAE, one of the Continent’s most dynamic and visionary countries, will be the perfect stage for this historic tournament.

New trophy unveiled

Football fans around the globe will witness a stunning new trophy lifted by the champions of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 at the iconic Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Feb.1, 2019.

The new trophy was unveiled by Sheikh Salman and former UAE international Zuhair Bakheet during the Final Draw.

Designed and made by world renowned silversmiths Thomas Lyte of London, the new trophy eloquently communicates the powerful spirit of football’s second oldest continental football competition.

Thomas Lyte craftsmen have designed and made globally some of the most iconic sporting trophies and the new AFC Asian Cup took these makers over 450 hours to craft, passing through the hands of 12 different craftsmen.

Shaikh Salman said: “Since 1956 we have had the same trophy and in keeping with the new and exciting future of the competition, the AFC decided to commission a new trophy, one that captures the excitement and drama of the tournament ahead.

The new trophy is revolutionary in design and stands at an impressive 78cm high and 42cm wide and is crafted from 15 kilogrammes of Hallmarked Sterling Silver bullion. When the trophy is finally uplifted the trophy plinth separates and contains the rich legacy of previous winners.

Molten to supply balls

Shaikh Salman on Friday signed an agreement with Japanese sports equipment manufacturer, Molten Corporation to be the Official Match Ball supplier for AFC’s national and club events, including the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

The signing ceremony, which was also attended by Molten President and CEO Kiyofumi Tamiaki, means Molten will supply footballs to some of Asia’s most high-profile fixtures including the AFC Asian Cup, the AFC Champions League, AFC Cup, AFC’s two flagship futsal events as well as several men’s and women’s youth events at the national team level.

The first match featuring Molten balls will kick off on Jan. 5, 2019 at the opening match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 - an event that enjoys a television reach of more than two billion people.

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