United Arab Emirates won this year’s Gulf Cup of Nations on Friday night. They needed extra-time before eventually seeing off tough opposition in the form of Iraq with Ismail Al Hammadi’s winner in the 107th minute proving the difference between the two sides.
Both nations had emerged top of their respective groups in the league stages, both of whom registering a 100% record with three wins from three, but were made to fight it out in the semi-finals with the UAE knocking out Kuwait with a goal in the 89th minute whilst Iraq needed a penalty shoot-out in order to dispose of tournament hosts Bahrain after they had been involved in a 1-1 draw.
In Friday’s final United Arab Emirates took the lead after 27 minutes thanks to Omar Abdulrahman but, with the match petering out into the closing stages, Iraq found an equalizer in the 80th minute with Younis Mahmoud getting himself on the score sheet. Cue extra-time and a winning strike from Al Hammadi two minutes into the second period gave the UAE their second Gulf Cup of Nations title, just six years after their maiden triumph.
The 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with the tournament hosts getting things under way on Saturday facing off against Oman in the opening match. Defending champions Kuwait, who are hoping to win the tournament for a record extending eleventh time, will get their campaign under way on Sunday against Yemen.
Kuwait’s victory in the 2010 tournament was the first time they had won the trophy for twelve years, a substantial drought given that they had previously been so successful in a competition which began in 1970. Their narrow 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in 2010 was sealed in extra-time thanks to midfielder Waleed Ali, leaving many Kuwaiti football fans to hope of a return to the days of dominance they enjoyed before 1998. Kuwait won the first four editions of this tournament from 1970-76 and went on to win it another five times in the next 22 years. From 1998, however, Saudi Arabia enjoyed a brief period of success winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. Qatar enjoyed home success in 2004 before a pair of first-time champions – namely United Arab Emirates and Oman – hoisted the trophy aloft in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Kuwait’s win in 2010 was a huge relief to the nation but it also brings back the pressure of defending the title, something which they will begin to do in Group B along with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Bahrain are tournament hosts swapping the role with Iraq who are now expected to host the event in 2015. This is the fourth time that Bahrain will host the event, following on from the 1970, 1986 and 1998 tournaments, and on no such occasion have they ended up as champion. Indeed, out of the eight participants featuring in the Gulf Cup, only Bahrain and Yemen have yet to emerge victorious in the history of the competition. The hosts will feature in Group A with Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates making up the rest of a potentially tight group.
The group stages will finish on January 12th and will then see the top two of each group meet in the semi-finals three days later. Finals day comes on January 18th with a third/fourth place play-off beginning proceedings in Isa Town before the final match takes place in the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa.
Kuwait have finally claimed their tenth Gulf Cup of Nations title following a tense encounter against Saudi Arabia in today’s final, played in Yemen.
Having last won this competition in 1998 Kuwait were determined to end the long drought and reclaim a trophy they have won more than anybody else. Saudi Arabia were hoping to win this tournament for the fourth time in their history and for the first time since 2003. However they were to suffer heartbreak at the cruelest possible time with Waleed Ali Jumah scoring the only goal of the game three minutes in second half stoppage time.
The next Gulf Cup of Nations tournament is scheduled to take place in 2013 with the host country being three-times winners Iraq.
WATCH THE WINNING GOAL HERE:
The final of the 2010 Gulf Cup will be played on Sunday following the conclusion of the semi-finals which were played yesterday.
Kuwait had to endure the lottery of a penalty shoot-out before gaining success over opponents Iraq in their semi-final. In an eventful first half Kuwait took the lead after just sixty seconds through Bader Al Mutwa but Iraq were ahead just fifteen minutes later with goals from Hawar Mulla Mohammed and Alaa Abdul Zahra and 2-1 was how it finished at the break. Kuwait restored parity just before the hour mark when Fahad Al Enezi pounced to equalize and with no further scoring in the game it was eventually settled on penalty kicks. Kuwait had a 100% record from the spot whilst Iraq were unfortunate to miss on the one occasion, therefore allowing Kuwait to go through 5-4. Their opponents in the final will be Saudi Arabia who overcame the United Arab Emirates in a tight game which saw Ahmed Abbas score the only goal after 55 minutes.
The 2010 Gulf Cup of Nations, currently being hosted in the country of Yemen, is two matches into the 20th edition of the tournament. Following their second game the host nation knows that not even a win in their final group game against Kuwait can get them into the semi-finals.
That’s because Group A is topped by Saudi Arabia and record nine-time champions Kuwait, each of whom have four points, with Qatar close behind the top two with three points. On Matchday 2 the top two teams faced off against each other and could only muster a goalless draw to follow up on opening day wins. In the other Yemen, hoping to keep local interest alive for a couple more days, were defeated by Qatar by two goals to one. Even in the unlikely event of Yemen chalking a win against the much stronger Kuwait team there is little they can do but restore some pride to their team. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, meanwhile, will hope to cement a place in the semi-finals with the former needing only a draw whilst the latter must win. That should make for a fascinating contest.
In Group B defending champions Oman are making hard work of the competition having drawn both of their games against Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Oman must win their final group match against table toppers Iraq, who have a two point lead on Oman in the group standings, on Monday to confirm a place in the last four. The United Arab Emirates, who lie in third place due to having scored fewer goals than Oman, face off against bottom team Bahrain on Matchday 3 and they will hope to be able to get three points but Bahrain do still have an outside chance of qualifying for the semi-finals but will need the results of both games to go their way.