March 09, 2015

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) The Asian Football Confederation selected the United Arab Emirates over a bid from Iran to host the 2019 continental champions at its meeting Monday in Manama, Bahrain.

The Asian Cup, which was hosted and won by Australia in January, will be expanded from 16 to 24 teams in the next edition.

AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said there was no doubt the UAE was better equipped than Iran to host the continent's biggest football event.

''I could say the decision was ... not difficult,'' he said. ''After that we have to be realistic because the UAE's capabilities are bigger and I wish them success because after what we saw in Australia the championship was successful in every sense. So for sure this is a challenge for our brothers, but I hope the organizing committee put in a more successful event than the previous championship.''

The UAE hosted the Asian Cup in 1996, when it lost the final on penalties against Saudi Arabia.

Yousef Al Serkal, head of the UAE's football association, said the country's experience hosting the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cups and the 2013 under-17 World Cup gave it the edge in the bidding process.

''AFC has belief in the UAE to be able to organize a good Asia Cup because the country had previously well organized the FIFA Youth World Cup and FIFA Club World Cup and received glowing reports,'' he said. ''All this led to convincing everybody. There also have been many visits to Iran and UAE and at the end the inspecting commissions were convinced the UAE would do a better job.''

The tournament will be held in January, when temperatures are generally cooler in the UAE, with matches played in six venues in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. The event will be staged three years before the region is set to host the World Cup for the first time, at Qatar in 2022.

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