Asian Cup in the UAE: A look back on the last time the Emirates played host in 1996 - in pictures

Saudi Arabia lifted the trophy after beating the UAE on penalties in the final

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The 2019 Asian Cup kicks off on Saturday with the UAE hosting the quadrennial tournament for only the second time.

The first time the country hosted the continental showpiece, back in 1996, there were only 11 teams with just two venues used, in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

This year's tournament will be the biggest in the competition's history, featuring 24 teams across four venues - Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah - with eight stadiums hosting the 51 matches from January 5-February 1.

As hosts, the UAE will kick off the 2019 edition against Bahrain at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday, which was also the venue for the opening match in 1996 as the national team played out a 1-1 draw against South Korea. Al Shabab's Khamees Saad Mubarak was on the score sheet that day.

A 3-2 victory over Kuwait was followed up with a 2-0 win over Indonesia, with midfielder Adnan Khamis Al Talyani on target in both, as Tomislav Ivic's UAE side finished top of Group A to reach the quarter-finals, with Kuwait and Korea also advancing.

Iran, led by the prolific striker Ali Daei, who would go on to finish as overall top scorer with eight goals, topped Group B ahead of Saudi Arabia and Iraq; Japan and China advanced to the last eight from three-team Group C.

UAE needed extra time to seal a 1-0 victory over Iraq to book a semi-final date against Kuwait, who were dispatched by the same scoreline as Ivic's men reached a first Asian Cup final.

After edging a seven-goal thriller against China, Saudi Arabia faced Iran in the last four. With neither defence breached after 90 minutes and extra time, the game was decided by a penalty shoot-out, the Saudis prevailing 4-3 to set up a championship match against their Gulf neighbours.

The final, held at Zayed Sports City, was a cagey affair and neither team could be separated. Penalties were required once more.

With Yousef Saleh and Hassan Saeed Ahmed both failing from 12 yards, Khaled Al Muwallid converted the decisive spot kick as Saudi Arabia prevailed 4-2 and clinched their third, and still most recent, Asian Cup title.


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