(Persia Digest) – The 2019 AFC Cup will begin in Asia today. Participating teams will be competing in the UAE, where Iran’s Team Melli, alongside some of their other competitors, will be playing to break the spell of four decades to become champions.

The UAE is hosting the games 5 January-1 February 2019. The opening day will see the UAE play against Bahrain at the Al Jazeera Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.

Iran’s Team Melli won the championship title in 1976 for the last time. It is one of the main contenders in the 2019 games. Iran has won the AFC title three times in 1968, 1972, and 1976. It is the only team to have won the title three consecutive times. Japan is the top team with four championships in its portfolio; but Iran can take the lead if it wins for the fourth time.

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The 17th edition of the Cup will be held for the first time with 24 teams in six groups of four teams. Iran is in Group D with Iraq, Yemen, and Vietnam. At the end of the qualifiers, two teams from each group will make their way to the round of sixteen. Four teams in third place with the best results from the six groups will also make it to the round of sixteen.

Iran’s first game will be with Yemen on Monday, 7 January, at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

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Other main contenders of the Cup are Japan, S Korea, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.

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