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UAE football team set for World Cup qualifier

UAE football team set for World Cup qualifier

Mahdi Ali’s men take on East Timor in Kuala Lumpur today in their first game

By Hisham Al Gizouli (chief Reporter)

Published: Tue 16 Jun 2015, 11:32 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:11 PM

UAE players during a training session on Monday. — Supplied photo

UAE players during a training session on Monday. — Supplied photo

Dubai — The UAE coach Mahdi Ali reiterated that the 3-0 friendly defeat at the hands of South Korea will not affect the team psychologically when they face East Timor in the World Cup qualifier on Tuesday. UAE take on the minnows in the opener of the 2018 Russia Fifa World Cup and UAE 2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers at the Shah Alam Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. The match kicks off at 12 noon UAE time.

“At the end of the day it was a friendly played to prepare the players for the Timor game. It gave me a very good chance to know the form of my team before I make my selection for future matches,” Ali said at the pre-match Press conference on Monday.

“I would have been glad to have one more friendly before the Korean game because they are one of the best teams in the continent. But for me it was still a friendly match and the result wasn’t important. I was preparing my players and it gave us a lot of ideas for what we have to do for this game and in which areas we need to work more especially because our last training camp was held five month ago. You don’t see many national teams stop for this long and play friendlies after such a big gap,” he added.

The World Cup finals, however, is Mahdi’s fourth dream after the 2012 Summer Games, the Gulf Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. Ali has fulfilled so far the first two dreams and he still has a chance to turn his World Cup dream into reality.

“Qualification is very important for us especially as the UAE haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1990, so having a good start to this qualifying campaign is very important. We came here early to prepare for this game and had a friendly against South Korea – it hasn’t been good timing for us because the game came after the end of the league and many players finished late or early depending on how their clubs did in the President’s Cup. But thankfully everyone is in good shape and all the players are ready for the game

“East Timor’s coach used to play in the UAE and they have players who play in UAE at the moment they know a lot about us. We have seen two of their games. We have also seen many surprises in the first round of qualification – there are no big or small teams, whoever prepares harder on the field and works well will take the result. I hope our team does its best to have a good start in this competition,” he said.

Ali said even the players who have made appearances in several international and regional competitions right from the U-18 and the senior squad have a dream to play in the World Cup finale.

“I think this generation of players deserves to play in the World Cup. It’s any player’s dream to play in one. For me it’s very important to be in a World Cup, but we should not talk about this yet because we have an important match this Tuesday and we have to focus on this game.

“We don’t have any injuries. All the players are ready and Ali Mabkhout who skipped the friendly against Korea because he was feeling tired is now ready for the game,” he concluded. Timor’s coach Emerson Alcântara said he will build on his previous knowledge of the UAE since he was part of the country’s football to achieve the best possible result out of what he termed a ‘tough’ game on Tuesday. Magrao played for the second division side Al Khaleej for a while.

“We know about UAE and I have studied them and know their mentality,” he said noting that he was there as a player and a coach for some time in the UAE. Regarding their preparations for the match Alcântara said they have prepared well.

Timor Este held hosts Malaysia to a 1-1 draw in their qualifying opener on Thursday, and Magrao said it was a good result. “But, we have to forget that game and focus on our next match,” he said.

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