Not only are Qataris largely barred from the UAE due to the ongoing Persian Gulf blockade, but the host has gone to great lengths to make sure no pro-Qatar supporters sneak in, AFP reported.
In a telling turn of events, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has snapped up all remaining tickets to give away to "loyal UAE fans", it said in a tweet.
Long queues formed as supporters waited for their free tickets, but only people holding Emirati identification were eligible.
The move appears aimed at preventing a repeat of Qatar's last-16 game with Saudi Arabia, the UAE's staunch ally, when Omani fans turned up to cheer on the Maroons.
It also highlights seething tensions between Qatar and the UAE, one of a group of countries enforcing a diplomatic and transport blockade of the 2022 World Cup host for allegedly supporting terrorism – a claim Doha denies.
The result is that Abu Dhabi's 42,000-capacity Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium will be not only a sellout, but also nearly unanimously behind Alberto Zaccheroni's white-clad team.
'If we win we will cry'
The regional rivalry has permeated the tournament, which is only available to watch in the UAE via Qatar's subscription-only beIN Sports, which isn't available even in official, tournament-approved hotels.
Qatari fans will, of course, be watching from afar. Qataris need prior permission to visit the UAE, and with transport links cut, they also need to travel via another country, complicating the journey.
"It's not only me who wants to travel to the match, thousands of Qatari people want to watch the team," Qatar fan Abdul-Rahman, a 25-year-old IT engineer, told AFP in Doha.
"Of course, I won't go. If I go I will have too many problems, it's far too much trouble for us."
He added, "If we win we are going to cry. We want to show the UAE that you blockaded us, you gave us too many problems, but you will never stop us."