By Samindra Kunti in Doha
May 12 – Qatar will kick off the 2023 Asian Cup on January 12 at the Al Bayt Stadium as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released the matched schedule for the tournament. The same venue will stage the final on February 10.
Following the draw in the Qatari capital, the match schedule for the 18th Asian Cup was confirmed. The hosts get proceedings underway against Lebanon in Al Khor before the tournament kicks into full gear on day two with China facing debutants Tajikistan in the other Group A encounter. On the same day Australia take on India while Uzbekistan entertain Syria in Group B.
In standout ties in the first round, Japan open their campaign against Vietnam in a repeat of their 2019 Asian Cup quarter-final when Japan’s narrow win ended a fine tournament for the Vietnamese.
Japan then take on Iraq, the 2007 winners. In their final group game, the hosts take on China, whose strength in depth remains a question mark given their international isolation, but by then the Al Annabi will hope to have sealed qualification for the knockout rounds. The tournament will serve as an opportunity to forget the disappointing World Cup campaign last November. They exited the group stage without a win.
It’s similar for the clash final group C clash between Iran and the United Arab Emirates. In the post-Queiroz era, the Iranians will once again seek the top prize – they last won it in 1976 – but with the oldest squad at the recent World Cup, the need for renewal is obvious. However, the new coach has little time to work with and his contract runs only until the end of the tournament. Much will depend on the form of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi.
Australia and Uzbekistan face off in a repeat of a 2019 clash when Australia narrowly prevailed on penalties to qualify for the last eight. Australia and the other traditional Asian heavyweights shouldn’t have too many problems progressing to the knockout phase in the 24-team tournament.
The 68,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium (above hosting opening game of Qatar 2022 World Cup) will host the final. The other venues are Al Janoub Stadium, Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Education City Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium – as well as Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium and Abdullah Stadium. The latter two venues did not host World Cup matches.
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