Dicipline, precision will be key as UAE eye Asian Cup final berth
The UAE's striker Ali Mabkhout needs to be patient and precise at the front.
Abu Dhabi - Hammadi, Juma well on the recovery path and available for selection
By Ashwani Kumar
Published: Mon 28 Jan 2019, 3:51 PM
Last updated: Mon 28 Jan 2019, 7:30 PM
The UAE will need discipline, timing and more importantly precision in equal measure to defeat Qatar in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 semifinals to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first host to win the title.
The UAE squad is depleted with injuries to key defenders Khalifa Mubarak and Mohammad Ahmed. However, winger Ismail Al Hammadi and defender Fares Juma are well on recovery path from their respective injuries and are likely to be available for selection.
It will be a test of character for Ismail Matar and his teammates against an opponent, who have scored 12 times without conceding a goal in their journey (five matches) to the semifinal in this edition of the Asian Cup.
So, the UAE need to be disciplined at the back, time their passes and run-ins to perfection and striker Ali Mabkhout needs to be patient and precise at the front. There cannot be a slip or a miss in this encounter.
The UAE head coach Alberto Zaccheroni noted his players need to be highly focused throughout the 90 minutes. "Qatar are a strong and well-organised team. They have been playing together for a long time with the same set of players and this is their big strength. They did well last year and have continued their good performance here too.
"They have a good mix of youth and experience. But we are all aware about the importance of the semis. We are all aware about our responsibilities. We are ready for the challenge. We look at each game as a final. We are not worried and are only concentrating on recovery of our players," the coach said at a pre-match press conference, often highlighting his issues with injuries and stability in the defence.
Zaccheroni reiterated that his fast-learning young players were aware about opponents' strengths and weakness, and will play for a positive result.
"We faced some difficulties in our group stage and Round of 16 games as our opponents had a highly defensive approach. But our players are learning and improving with each outing. We had a good game against Australia. I hope the fans will come in big numbers like they did against Australia. We promise them a better performance than the last game."
There is certain pressure on the coach too to replicate the achievements of guiding Japan to 2011 Asian Cup title but Zaccheroni is unperturbed. "There is no comparison between 2011 Asian Cup and now. Now there are no easy games. There are no small teams. Football has evolved so much in Asia," he noted.
Interestingly, the two teams met in 2015 Asian Cup group stage where the UAE came from behind to drub Qatar 4-1. Ahmed Khalil and Mabkhout scored a brace back then. The two strikers being on target on Tuesday will do the job for the UAE. Al Jazira striker Mabkhout will create a Cup record if he were to net a fifth consecutive one and there cannot be a better place to do than at his club ground of Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Despite the setback in defence due to injuries, optimism is on high count and it will be a sold-out stadium rooting for the home side.