United Arab Emirates were, as expected, named hosts of the 2019 Asian Cup on Monday after beating outsiders Iran to stage the expanded 24-team tournament.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the safe bet decision after a meeting of their executive committee in Bahrain on Monday.
Iran’s hopes were always hindered by the unwillingness to allow women to attend matches at home, a decision FIFA president Sepp Blatter labelled “intolerable” on Friday after he claimed he had been given hope in 2013 that it would be overturned.
Iran is also subject to western sanctions over its nuclear programme, which has made it difficult for the country’s football association to host friendly matches, a vital source of income for the federation, which has hit the men’s team.
The UAE have proved to be a safe pair of hands in organising global soccer events, having staged the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cups and the FIFA under-17 World Cup in 2013.
The UAE and Iran were the only runners to host the Asian Cup after early interest from China, Bahrain, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Thailand and Saudi Arabia failed to materialise into a concrete bid.
The UAE will use six stadiums in three cities, two in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubai and the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain, for the event, which is likely to be held at the start of the year when temperatures in the region are coolest.
It will be the second time the UAE has hosted Asia’s premier tournament after it staged the then 12-team event in 1996 where the home team lost in the final on penalties to Saudi Arabia.
Iran held the event twice in 1968 and 1976, going on to win it on both occasions.
The UAE finished third at the Asian Cup in Australia in January, the last 16-team edition.
The AFC announced last year that its showpiece event would be expanded to 24 teams to give more opportunity for its 47 members to compete, with the qualifying process merged with the one used for the World Cup.