Iraq to host 2018 WAFF Championship

Basra will play host to all the matches at the 2018 WAFF Championship

Earlier this week the West Asian Football Federation announced that its much delayed biennial tournament will go ahead this year with Basra playing host.

Iraq has staged several friendly matches over the past year to much fanfare and the awarding of the 2018 WAFF Championship is just reward.

The participating nations have not been confirmed but Palestine, who have participated in every single edition are expected to participate.

Since the turn of the century, the WAFF Championship has been a constant presence taking place every two years without fail. That is, until 2016 when the scheduled tournament, due to be held in Bahrain, never happened.

In that time, Iran broke off from the federation and became a founding member of the Central Asian Football Federation joining forces with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Earlier this month, amidst murmurs of a power struggle, the Saudi Football Federation formed the Southwest Asian Football Federation. Incorporating all the nations in West Asia, with the exception of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Qatar.

It is assumed that this was Turki Al-Sheikh’s reaction (the head of the Saudi General Sports Authority) to the refusal of WAFF to move its headquarters from Amman, Jordan to the kingdom.

Asian Cup Preparation 

With the tournament taking place in November, this provides all participating nations a chance to prepare for the continental showdown in January. That said, there is the issue of scheduling a tournament that keeps Asian Cup group stage opponents apart. 
Palestine have been placed in Group B with Syria and Jordan while the UAE are in Group A alongside Bahrain. Over in Group D Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon are grouped together and Group E features Iraq and Yemen. 
Of the 11 West Asian sides at the Asian Cup, only Oman will not face a fellow WAFF member at the group stage. 
It will be nearly impossible to keep all these sides apart at a WAFF Championship which should push Palestine, as well as other sides to field experimental sides. 
For their part, Palestine should call up members of the Olympic team and test their readiness ahead of the Asian Cup. The spine of the national team, (Hamadi in goal, Battat, Dheeb, Bahdari, and Jaber in defence with Darweesh as a shield) set this tournament should feature players vying to make the squad in a reserve role.  

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