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The 2021 Arab Cup ended on Saturday with Algeria defeating Tunisia 2-0 after extra time to lift the trophy. Here are five things we learned from this 16 team tournament which turned out to be a huge success.

1. The FIFA Arab Cup is here to stay

In the absence of the Confederations Cup, it was always a good idea to have some sort of tournament one year away from the World Cup, and the resurrection of the Arab Cup seemed like a natural thing to do. It’s no surprise that it worked out well, but how somewhat unexpected was.

The tournament started with the great African nations stripped of their European stars and talking about using it as preparation for bigger challenges to follow in 2022. It ended with fans watching the game on the big screen in Algeria and in Algeria. Tunisia, and crazy celebrations in the first.

As entertainment, it was memorable. There were some great games, great goals and the right amount of controversy – the 19 minutes of added time in Algeria’s semi-final win over Qatar was mind-blowing, as was the action it took. contained.

Attendance was good, especially in the round of 16, and the atmosphere in the stadiums added the feeling of a big match that such tournaments need. In short, it looked like a real tournament, which should be part of the football calendar in different countries in the region for a long time to come.

2. Africa triumphs in Asia

Ten Asian countries started last month, but only one, Qatar, made the last four and none made it to the final. If the African competitors had to leave their big stars in Europe, they turned out to be too good for Asia.

Countries like Oman and Jordan have reached the quarter-finals and have shown that they can be competitive internationally, and it has been a great experience for them to play against teams from outside Asia because they have it. rarely the occasion.

Overall, however, it hasn’t been good enough on the part of the AFC representatives, and it shows that West Asian teams need to, among other things, send more players overseas to play. . This is the striking difference between the nations of North Africa and West Asia. One region exports talent to play around the world and gain international experience, the other does not.

3. Saudi Arabia’s approach was the right one

There was a debate in Riyadh as to whether it was the right decision to send the U-23 team to Qatar instead of a more senior team. After all, with the resumption of World Cup qualifying in January, it would have been easy to give Hervé Renard more time to work with his players, especially since the Saudi Pro League was suspended for the duration of the tournament.

But going with the rookies was the right decision. Giving young players experience in regional tournaments is what Japan and South Korea have been doing for years – they started doing it at the Asian Games before it became mandatory – and they have a enviable World Cup qualification record.

While the league may not need to be interrupted (no more than two players could have been called from the same club to share the burden), the decision to use young players was a decision. far-sighted. This meant Saudi Arabia would never go too far in the tournament, but the benefits should become evident in the years to come.

4. Egypt can also be satisfied

Egypt’s approach was slightly different from Saudi Arabia as it took a lot of young and inexperienced players, although there were a few older heads to help out as well. This also resulted in a satisfactory result.

The Pharaohs could have easily been in the final, but were beaten by Tunisia in the semi-final with the last action of the game. In the end, a fourth place with a largely inexperienced squad was a decent performance for Egypt under new coach Carlos Queiroz, who will now have a much better idea of ​​the overall level of players pushing to be in the senior squad afterwards. six competitive games.

“It was a good opportunity to discover new players and new blood,” Queiroz said. “The average age of the team is under 25 and many players have worn the Egyptian jersey for the first time. This is the reason why we came here, to gain experience, and indeed we won four times and we were unlucky the last time.

This prepares Egypt well for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next month and, of course, the final qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup.

5. Cheer for the World Cup

With English Premier League games regularly canceled and the outbreak of COVID-19 in many countries, it was a credit to the organizers and the host country that the Arab Cup apparently went off without a major outbreak. The players have been protected and despite the large attendance so far there has been no problem.

With much of the world reimposing restrictions as cases rise again, the success of the Arab Cup offers hope. This means that even though we are still living in the midst of the global pandemic around this time next year, it is possible to have a football festival.

The World Cup is, of course, on another scale and is the biggest sporting event on the planet, but the Arab Cup suggests there may be reasons for optimism and a lot to look forward to next year.