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Younis Mahmoud takes part in the FIFA Arab Cup draw

Football legends from across the Arab world took part in the draw for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ at Katara Opera House earlier this week. The tournament, set to take place in Qatar later this year, will see 23 teams from the region vie for the highly anticipated title in what will be the final major tournament to take place in Qatar ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022™.

Teams were drawn into four groups, with the top nine nations according to the FIFA World Rankings qualifying automatically, and the remaining seven joining after a series of one-off qualification matches. Click here for details of the draw.

For Younis Mahmoud and Wael Gomaa, who are both Qatar Legacy Ambassadors and considered legendary players from Iraq and Egypt respectively, the tournament promises to deliver some classic match-ups that are sure to excite fans across the Arab world.

“I was excited to see Qatar and Iraq drawn in the same group because the two teams have built a very nice rivalry that has seen results go both ways,” said Mahmoud, who led Iraq to AFC Asian Cup glory in 2007.

He continued: “Both are former Asian champions with relatively young squads and they will both be keen to show off their skills to a global audience ahead of the first World Cup in the region. Going through to the next round for each of the teams will not be easy, but doing so will mean facing some of the region’s best teams, mainly those from North Africa who boast players from Europe’s top leagues.”

Gomaa believes the tournament will finally confirm the best Arab football nation – a debate regularly aired in coffee shops and social media forums across the region.

“Although most fans will rightfully look forward to the colossal first round match between Egypt and Algeria – two African champions that have a tremendous history with each other – I also look forward to seeing Saudi Arabia play Morocco. The more we see intercontinental match-ups, the better sense we will get of who really deserves to lay claim to the title of best team in the Arab world,” said Gomaa, a former Egyptian full-back and three-time winner of the African Cup of Nations.

“For fans, the Arab Cup will also kick off a year-long celebration in the build-up to Qatar 2022. Seeing their teams in action in World Cup stadiums will be a treat, particularly for those smaller nations that might not qualify for the World Cup next year,” added Gomaa.

As a former Qatari player who was part of the famous side that made it to the quarter-finals of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Ahmed Khalil, who is also a Qatar Legacy Ambassador, knows the importance of big tournaments like the Arab Cup for younger players, especially those from lesser known teams.

“For the smaller teams from the region, this tournament will be their big chance to show off their footballing merit to the rest of the world. Having the opportunity to play against the Arab world’s best players at World Cup stadiums will be the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Khalil, a former goalkeeper who turned out for Qatar Stars League side Al Arabi SC.

“I know how much this tournament will mean for those teams, and the passion that they will bring on to the field. Their skill, along with the support many of them will have in the stands, will surely mean that we see an upset or two,” Khalil added.

Set to take place at six Qatar 2022 stadiums, the tournament will be the final major milestone prior to the country’s hosting of the World Cup, which will be held from 21 November to 18 December 2022.

Click here for details of the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ draw and match schedule.