The draw for the first ever FIFA organized Arab Cup is not until tomorrow and despite football’s governing body remaining tight lipped about the format we can now reveal several key details.
A playoff round will narrow down the field of the 14 worst ranked participants to seven. Those seven teams will join the nine best ranked teams in the 16-team group stage which will be played in a format identical to the one used at the EURO between 1996 and 2012.
The pots are as follows:
Pot 1: Qatar (hosts), Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco
Pot 2: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq United Arab Emirates
Pot 3: Syria, Playoff 1 Winner, Playoff 2 Winner, Playoff 3 Winner
Pot 4: Playoff 4 Winner, Playoff 5 Winner, Playoff 6 Winner, Playoff 7 Winner
Playoff 1: Oman vs. Somalia | Playoff 2: Lebanon vs. Djibouti | Playoff 3: Jordan vs. South Sudan | Playoff 4: Bahrain vs. Kuwait | Playoff 5: Mauritania vs. Yemen | Playoff 6: Palestine vs. Comoros | Playoff 7: Libya vs. Sudan
Palestine and Comoros have never played each other before. The tiny archipelago nation advanced to their first ever African Cup of Nations Finals earlier this year beating out Togo and Kenya to qualify alongside Egypt from their group.
Comoros represents something of a kind draw for Palestine due to the fact that the tournament is being played outside of FIFA international match calendar. Manager Amir Abdou has not called up a single player from the local league in the last 12 months and has drawn heavily on the Comorian diaspora in France. Conceivably only Mauritania based duo Ibroihim Youssouf and Faouz Faidine Attoumane alongside Goalkeeper Ali Ahamada (without a club) would be able to participate in the tournament.
Palestine on the other hand could draw on any of its professionals playing in the Arab World as well as players based in North America and Scandinavia whose seasons end in November.