The curtain falls on the qualifiers for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ today (25 June 2021) with Bahrain and Kuwait renewing their rivalry at the Khalifa International Stadium, the same venue that hosted their last meeting a year and a half ago. The pair, who first crossed swords 55 years ago in the Arab Cup, go head-to-head this Friday for a place in the final phase of the FIFA Arab Cup, scheduled for the end of the year in Qatar. FIFA.com takes a brief look back at some of the most important duels between the two sides over the years.
Matches between Bahrain and Kuwait always have a special feel to them, seeing as the former faced Kuwait in their first official international at the third edition of the Arab Cup hosted by Iraq in 1966. Despite the gap in experience at the time, Bahrain surprised everyone by scoring four times to draw their opening group game (4-4). However, it was to be their only point at the tournament as they went on to lose their next three games.
World Cup qualifiers
The pair crossed paths again in FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers for Argentina 1978 and Korea/Japan 2002, with Kuwait triumphing in three of those four encounters. In 1977, the Kuwaitis prevailed in the pair’s first Group 4 clash in the Asian qualifiers for Argentina (2-0), then repeated the feat a week later (2-1) to progress to the final round, where they finished third behind IR Iran and Korea Republic. Then in the preliminary competition ahead of Korea/Japan 2002, Bahrain topped Group 4 after defeating Kuwait 1-0 on the final matchday. That win, secured with a Mohamed Husain strike, took the Reds into the second round and ended Kuwait’s World Cup aspirations for another four years.
Kuwait biggest win
The biggest winning margin in the series came in 2013. Playing at Bahrain’s National Stadium, the Blue Wave defeated the hosts 6–1 in the third-place game at the 21st edition of the Gulf Cup. Bahrain opened the scoring in the first minute through Abdullah Helal, who currently plays in the Czech Republic. Unperturbed, Kuwait roared back with an Abdulhadi Khamis hat-trick, before his team-mates weighed in with another three second-half goals in a six-minute spell.
Bahraini superiority in recent years
Despite Kuwait still having the better head-to-head record, Bahrain have proved dangerous opponents in recent years, winning three of the last four matches. In fact, you have to go back to 2013 for Kuwait’s last win. Their most recent fixture, played at the Khalifa International Stadium in the group stage of the 2019 Gulf Cup, went Bahrain’s way (4-2). It clearly spurred on Helio Sousa’s side, who went on to claim their maiden Gulf Cup title a week later. Whether Bahrain can extend their recent dominance or Kuwait can reprise past glories will be revealed tomorrow, but an emotion-filled renewal of this old rivalry is guaranteed either way.