WATCH extended 2021 FIFA Arab Cup daily highlights from December 1-19 via SBS On Demand, plus LIVE, FREE and EXCLUSIVE coverage of the semi-finals and final on SBS and SBS On Demand from December 16.
The tournament features the top 16 national teams from the Middle East and Northern Africa and will act as a test run for the World Cup.
It replaces the traditional World Cup warm-up event, the FIFA Confederations Cup, with matches taking place at six of the seven stadiums which will host World Cup matches in 2022.
SBS will broadcast the semi-finals and final of the Arab Cup LIVE, FREE and EXCLUSIVE, with highlights and replays of the matches available via SBS On Demand.
Daily extended highlights will also be available via SBS On Demand from the start of the tournament.
The tournament will consist of a group stage and knockout rounds, with 16 teams split into four groups of four where the top two from each will then progress to the quarter-finals.
Australia's World Cup qualifying rivals Saudi Arabia and Oman will take part in the Arab Cup alongside fellow AFC teams Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and hosts Qatar.
African powerhouse Egypt will also take part as well as Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.
Matchday one kicks off with a clash between Tunisia and Mauritania on December 1 (AEDT), before the group stage wraps up on Wednesday, December 8 (AEDT).
The knockout stage of the FIFA Arab cup is scheduled to get underway on Saturday, December 11 (AEDT) with four quarter-final matches.
The semi-finals, which will be broadcast LIVE and FREE on SBS, take place on Thursday, December 16 (AEDT).
The tournament wraps up on Sunday, December 19 (AEDT) with the final which will also be broadcast LIVE on SBS and SBS on Demand.
Hosts Qatar and automatic qualifiers Iraq will be joined by Oman and Bahrain.
The former booked their place at the expense of Somalia, while the latter saw off Kuwait.
Being an all-Gulf nations section, it is difficult to predict who will go beyond the group stage, particularly after Bahrain’s stellar performance against Kuwait.
Tunisia’s fortunes seem to have recently become entwined with those of Mauritania, with the pair meeting on numerous occasions over the last couple of years.
After sharing a group at the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, they found themselves pitted together once more in the second round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It comes as no surprise then to see them sharing a section at the Arab Cup, along with Syria and the UAE.
Automatic qualifiers Morocco and Saudi Arabia have now been joined by Jordan and Palestine.
Led by their ace midfielder Oday Dabbagh, Palestine gave a masterclass against Comoros, especially in attack.
The group promises to be an exciting and fiercely competitive one, with Palestine and Jordan hungry to progress at the expense of two teams that participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
This group is arguably the toughest of all, featuring an Algeria team unbeaten in their last 27 internationals, as well as another Russia 2018 participant in the form of Egypt.
Facing the north African duo will be Lebanon, who showed their offensive capabilities against Djibouti and recently made the final round of Asian qualifying for Qatar 2022, and Sudan.
Led by coach Hubert Velud, the Falcons of Jeddiane recently qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations after a long absence at the expense of a strong South Africa team.
Players to watch
Akram Afif (Qatar) – Qatar’s free-scoring winger will be looking to add to his incredible goal tally and lead the host nation to victory during the FIFA Arab Cup.
After becoming the first Qatari to sign for a La Liga club when he joined Villareal in 2016, Afif has gone from strength to strength, being named Asian Footballer of the year in 2019.
Under the tutelage of Barcelona legend Xavi, his former club coach at Qatari side Al Sadd, Afif has become a player capable of both creating and scoring goals - a skillset opposition defences will need to be wary of.
Afif netted the opener in Qatar’s 2019 AFC Cup victory against Japan and will be leading his nation as they look to add the FIFA Arab Cup to their growing collection of silverware.
Yacine Brahimi (Algeria) – The French-born playmaker will be the focal point of Algeria’s attack when they play at the FIFA Arab Cup this December.
The former Rennes and Porto star now plays for Qatari powerhouse Al-Rayyan SC and will be well attuned to what he’ll need to do to lead Algeria to a successful tournament in Qatar.
A brilliant dribbler, Brahimi’s ability on the ball is a nightmare for defenders, as is his unpredictability.
The 2014 BBC African Player of the Year, Brahimi’s experience playing in major tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA World Cup will make him a valuable asset for a talented Algerian side.
Felix Melki & Alexander Melki (Lebanon) – Swedish-born Felix Melki will line up alongside his brother in a burgeoning Lebanese team that will be looking to cause a surprise or two in Qatar.
The brothers will form the backbone of the Lebanese defence and will use their experience of playing in Sweden’s top tier to help the Cedars against their Group D rivals.
Felix – a towering central defender, is a physical ball-winner, who has also been used as an attacking midfielder for his passing ability.
Alexander operates as a right-back for Lebanon and helped shut down South Korean superstar Son Heung-min during a World Cup qualifier in 2019.
Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia) - The French-born 18-year-old rising star will be out to declare himself as a superstar of the future when he runs out for his first major tournament with Tunisia at the FIFA Arab Cup.
Mejbri, who plays for Premier League giants Manchester United, has been touted as one of the next big things in world football.
The skilful attacker has so far delivered with scintillating displays for the Red Devils' youth team, including being named the club’s under-23 player of the year last season.
He made his Premier League debut earlier this year against the Wolverhampton Wanderers and is on track to make more regular appearances with the Manchester United first team.
Despite representing France at the junior level, Mejbri switched his allegiance to Tunisia – the birthplace of his parents – to much fanfare and will be out to prove himself in Qatar.
2021 FIFA Arab Cup on SBS and SBS On Demand - LIVE schedule
Arab Cup semi-finals
Thursday, December 16
TBC v TBC
1:30am (AEDT) – 4:00am (AEDT)
TBC v TBC
5:30am (AEDT) – 8:00am (AEDT)
Arab Cup final
Sunday, December 19
TBC v TBC
1:30am (AEDT) – 4:30 am (AEDT)