What’s On announces the unanimous decision for the UAE to host the 2019 Asian Cup. Matches will take place in Al Ain, Dubai and the capital.

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The UAE will host the 2019 Asian Cup, another major boost for sport in the region.

It will be the first time since 1996 that the Emirates has staged the southern hemisphere’s premier football competition.

Fighting off competition from Iran, the decision to hand the rights for the next instalment of the tournament can be seen in some way as reward for the nation’s showing earlier this year.

The 2015 Asian Cup represented a giant leap forward to Arabic football after Mahdi Ali’s side finished third overall, claiming the scalps of hotly-tipped Japan 0n-route to a narrow semi-final defeat to eventual winners Australia.

The performance Down Under has helped the UAE to their highest FIFA ranking in 15 years (66th at the time of the announcement) and, led by the talented Omar Abdulrahman, they have high hopes of pushing further over the next four years.

Nicknamed Eyal Zayed (Zayed’s Sons), the UAE’s best Asian Cup performance came the last time they welcomed Asia’s best, almost 20 years ago. Then, it was only a penalty shootout defeat to Saudi Arabia in the final that prevented them from lifting the title.

“I would like to congratulate the UAE Football Association on their successful bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2019,” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. “The AFC Executive Committee was convinced by the merits of the UAE bid.”

“I firmly believe that the UAE Football Association will host a tournament that could match and potentially even surpass the stunning AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia that we have all just witnessed.”

The 2019 competition will be expanded from 16 to 24 teams and will be played over three weeks in January. Early indications are that matches will be held six venues across the Emirates, including Zayed Sports City, Al Jazira Stadium (both Abu Dhabi), Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Sheikh Khalifa Stadium (both Al Ain), Al Ahli Stadium and the under construction DSC Stadium (both Dubai).

The UAE most recently held the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup, but also has experience of other FIFA events, like the Club World Cup (2009 and 2010).