The United Arab Emirates were rubber-stamped as hosts for the expanded Asian Cup in 2019 after signing an official agreement with the Asian FootballConfederation (AFC).

The UAE previously held the event in 1996 but they will be the first to host 24 teams, up from the 16 who competed in Australia in January.

The change was made “in order to give teams from AFC’s Member Associations more international exposure and matches, and to help them developfootball in their country”, an AFC statement said on Friday.

The desert state was unveiled in March as the next destination for the Asian Cup, and is now confirmed after Thursday’s signing of an Organising Association Agreement.

Oil-rich UAE has a tough act to follow after this year’s tournament in Australia set new attendance records and was widely viewed on TV and social media.

The UAE were one of the most exciting teams in the competition and they finished third after wins against holders Japan and 2007 champions Iraq.

The 2019 edition will take place just three years before Gulf neighbours Qatar are due to host the World Cup in 2022. – Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -