Football

Five players to look out for at FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021

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.

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