Sat 05-01-2019 15:01 PM
ABU DHABI, 5th January 2019 (WAM) - Just a few hours before taking on Bahrain in the opening encounter of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the UAE is looking to make history by winning the coveted title for the first time.
In the 1996 championship, also hosted here, the UAE reached the finals but lost to the champions, Saudi Arabia.
For the first time, the Asian Cup final tournament will be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format that was used from 2004 to 2015. Under this new format, the finalists will compete in a group stage consisting of six groups comprising four teams each, followed by a knock-out stage of 16 teams.
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup will see 51 matches played on eight fields. The Video Assistant Referee, VAR, will be used for the first time in the championship, starting from the semi-finals.
Three-time winner Saudi Arabia is also looking to catch up with Japan which won the title four times. The earlier winners included South Korea (twice) and Iran (three times). The other teams which have achieved success are Australia (2015, current champions), Iraq (2007) and Kuwait (1980).
The UAE first participated in 1980, followed by 1984, 1988 and 1992. It also hosted the 1996 edition when it conceded the title to Saudi Arabia in a thrilling final.
The UAE also competed in the AFC Asian Cup championships of 2004 in China; the 2007 event, which was co-hosted by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and 2011 and 2015 in Australia, in which it clinched the third place after beating Iraq 3-2.