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Court date set for UAE appeal against Qatar’s Asian Cup win

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GENEVA — A legal challenge by the United Arab Emirates soccer federation that threatens Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup title will be heard at sport’s highest court.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Tuesday it will hear the UAE’s appeal on March 12 in a case that alleges Qatar fielded two ineligible players at the tournament. The Asian Cup was hosted by the UAE during an ongoing diplomatic rift with neighboring Qatar, which will stage the next World Cup in 2022.

A verdict by CAS judges is likely at least several weeks after the hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The ruling could strip Qatar of its biggest success in world soccer, affect key young players in its World Cup planning, and see the UAE inflict an embarrassing loss on a regional political rival.

The UAE filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation after a 4-0 loss to Qatar in the Asian Cup semifinals in Abu Dhabi last January.

When an ineligible player case is proven, AFC rules say a team must forfeit the game.

The Asian governing body’s first disciplinary ruling cleared Qatar of wrongdoing hours before beating Japan 3-1 in the final.

UAE officials have appealed to CAS against the Qatar Football Association and the AFC, whose appeal committee also later dismissed the claims of wrongfully submitted documents.

The UAE alleges Qatar’s star forward Almoez Ali and defender Bassam Al-Rawi were not born there and did not meet FIFA nationality requirements to represent the country.

FIFA’s statutes say players can acquire a nationality if they have “lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.”

Both Ali, who turned 23 since the Asian Cup ended, and Al-Rawi, who is now aged 22, seemed not to meet the five-year residency rule.

However, both reportedly claimed their mothers were born in Qatar – meeting FIFA’s national eligibility standard if a parent or grandparent is born on a territory.

Ali scored against the UAE, and again in the final, for a tournament-leading nine goals. Al-Rawi was suspended for the semifinal but returned to play against Japan.

They are also club teammates at Al-Duhail, runner-up in the Qatari league last season, and fellow graduates of the state-of-the-art Aspire youth academy in Doha which has educated many players born outside of Qatar.

The latest appeal extends difficulties between the soccer neighbors which showed in a heated semifinals game played 20 months into an economic and travel boycott of Qatar by regional political rivals.

After Qatar took a 2-0 lead in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – named for the UAE crown prince – players celebrating the goal had to dodge shoes thrown by some spectators.

The UAE soccer body was later fined $150,000 by the AFC for the fans’ misconduct, including the shoe-throwing and disrespecting the Qatari anthem.

The teams met again in Doha five weeks ago, when the UAE and Saudi Arabia agreed to travel to Qatar to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup, won by Bahrain. Qatar beat the UAE 4-2 in a group-stage game.

Asian Cup: Qatar, UAE stun South Korea, Australia to reach semifinals (video)

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It was a day of huge shocks in the 2019 Asian Cup, as two soccer minnows reached the semifinal stage and one of them will be in the final on Feb. 1.

In Qatar’s case, it was the first time they’ve reached the final four of this tournament in their history. Qatar is currently 93rd in FIFA’s world rankings.

[ MORE: Latest Asian Cup news ]

Qatar and hosts UAE edged by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) giants South Korea and Australia respectively, as a single goal in the second half of each game did the damage.

Due to their injury issues, Tottenham Hotspur will be very happy that South Korean captain Heung-Min Son is heading home as he could now be available for their Premier League clash with Watford on Wednesday. While hosts UAE stunned reigning champs Australia in front of a jubilant home crowd in Abu Dhabi.

Below is a brief recap on what happened in the two quarterfinals on Thursday, as Qatar and UAE will now play each other for a place in the final with Iran and Japan clashing in the other semifinal.


Qatar 1-0 South Korea
The hosts for the 2022 World Cup reached their first-ever Asian Cup semifinal in stunning fashion, as they knocked out red-hot favorites South Korea. Captained by Heung-min Son, the Koreans had the majority of the play but couldn’t break through. Then Abdulaziz Hatem struck a wonderful effort from distance which sent Qatar into the final four. South Korea did score a few moments after Hatem’s opener, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Spurs sent out a message of commiseration for Son, but we all know they are delighted to have him back after the injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli over the past two weeks.


United Arab Emirates 1-0 Australia
The local hero Ali Mabkhout scored the winner with 22 minutes to go, and Australia had no answer. The reigning champs are out. Al-Jazira striker Mabkhout took his tally at the tournament to four goals as he latched onto a poor back pass from Degenek, rounded Mat Ryan and scored. Another PL club will benefit from Australia’s unexpected early exit, as Brighton will get starting goalkeeper Ryan back. Take a look below at the moment the UAE made it through to their second-straight Asian Cup semifinal, as Mabkhout played the hero in his hometown.

Asian Cup: UAE, Bahrain, Thailand reach last 16; India out amid late drama (video)

FIFA
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The hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain all advanced from Group A to reach the last 16 of the 2019 Asian Cup, while India crashed out after late drama in their group stage finale.

[ MORE: 2019 Asian Cup news ]

UAE drew 1-1 with Thailand to win the group, while Bahrain beat India 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time penalty kick to seal third spot and a place in the last 16.

Thailand secured second place by virtue of their head-to-head record over Bahrain, and the latter advanced to the knockout rounds as they are guaranteed to be one of the top four third-place teams.


India 0-1 Bahrain

India were devastated to be the first team knocked out of the tournament, as skipper Pronay Halder conceded a 91st minute penalty which Jamal Rashed converted to send Bahrain through. India hadn’t reached the knockout round of the Asian Cup since 1964, and their wait goes on.

Had the game finished 0-0 India were going through automatically and Bahrain would have finished bottom of the group. But instead the opposite happened as India finished fourth and Bahrain took third spot and a place in the last 16.


UAE 1-1 Thailand

UAE took the lead through Ali Mabkhout, but Thailand hit back before half time through Thitipan Puangchan to set up a nervy second half. Thailand went close to grabbing the win, but the tournament hosts secured the draw to finish top of the group as they remain unbeaten after a win and two draws in Group A.

As for Thailand, this marked the first time they’ve reached the knockout rounds in 40 years.

FIFA won’t be bound by politics over sharing Qatar World Cup

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Political tensions won’t prevent FIFA from deciding whether to place some World Cup games outside Qatar, the head of world soccer’s governing body said Thursday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino used a summit of soccer nations in Qatar to gather support for his mission to add 16 teams to the 2022 tournament – a move that would require the tiny, energy-rich nation sharing games in the region.

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That would be complicated by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cutting ties with Qatar in 2017 in an ongoing political dispute that prevents flights between Doha and the boycotting countries.

Qatar won a vote in 2010 to host the World Cup with 32 teams and is only building eight stadiums. A 48-team tournament is already planned for 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but Infantino wants to fast-track that expansion and add 16 more games for the first World Cup in the Middle East.

“Is it feasible to do it only in Qatar? Difficult probably,” Infantino said. “Is it feasible to have a few games being played in neighboring countries? Well, maybe this is an option, of course.

“I’m not that naive not to know not to read the news and not to know what is going on. But now we are in football, we are not in politics, and in football, sometimes the dreams come true.”

Given 32 teams compete for the World Cup and there are 211 nations in FIFA, adding more slots in 2022 is likely to be embraced by the members given they have already approved expansion of the event beginning in 2026.

Infantino used a trip to Doha in October to ask the emir of Qatar if he would consider allowing matches to be shared with nations that are part of an economic and travel boycott against his country.

“If there is something that I could do which is good for football worldwide, then we should look at it,” Infantino said at a news conference in Doha before heading to Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup. “I have the chance and I’m lucky enough to be able to look into that without having to be bound by any political considerations, but looking at it from a purely sporting perspective.”

Infantino did use a speech to politicians at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina last month to discuss using the World Cup in 2022 to bring countries together by spreading games beyond Qatar.

The 2022 tournament is already being cramped into a 28-day window to minimize the disruption to top European leagues because it was moved from June and July to November and December due to the extreme heat.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Six clubs fined, risk FIFA transfer bans for debts to players

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ZURICH (AP) Clubs from Russia and Qatar are among six fined by FIFA and warned they risk one-year transfer bans for failing to settle debts to players.

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FIFA says the clubs also face deductions of six league points if they fail to pay the debts in 30 to 90 days.

The clubs are: Kuban of Russia; Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat of Qatar; Zamalek of Egypt; Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; and Mersin Idman Yurdu of Turkey.

FIFA says all failed to comply with rulings by FIFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport “to pay significant overdue amounts of money to players.”

They were fined between 15,000 and 30,000 Swiss francs ($15,000 and $30,000).

FIFA says national soccer federations face disciplinary cases if they fail to enforce the verdicts.