Asian Cup: UAE face make-or-break game against Iran

The Whites currently sit second in the group with four points from two games

By Reuters

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UAE players during a training session. — UAEFA
UAE players during a training session. — UAEFA

Published: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 7:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 11:28 PM

The UAE will take on Iran in their final group game on Tuesday with a place in the Asian Cup knockout rounds at stake.

The Whites currently sit second in the group with four points from two games, but a defeat at Education City Stadium in Qatar and other results going against them could see Paulo Bento's men exit the competition in the group stage for the first time since 2011.

After a convincing 3-1 win over Hong Kong, China in their opening fixture, the UAE were held to a 1-1 draw against Palestine in a game they finished with 10 men after defender Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent-off in the 37th minute.

Bento also received a red card just before the final whistle, meaning he will be suspended for the Iran clash.

“Preparation for this match is going as normal,” said Bento. “We are trying to recover as much as possible. The last game was difficult for us especially after minute 37 when we started playing with one player less. That was an important factor for sure.

“We prepared our strategy for the next game against one of the strongest teams in Asia and the strongest in our group.

"It is a team that is composed of very good, experienced players, some of them play in high level competitions. They play together for a long time and they don’t change their way of playing too much.

“It is a team that is easy to see their strengths, but not easy for the opponent to counter them, so we need to make a very good game in many aspects. We should be clever in the way we play against Iran and compete very well and be humble to accept that in some moments we will not dominate the game, so we have to control it in a different way, and reach the best possible result in a different way.”

While Iran were one of the first teams to book their place in the next round, head coach Amir Ghalenoei acknowledged some problems faced in their last game against Hong Kong, China, insisting his side will not take things easy against the UAE on Tuesday.

“We are happy we were able to qualify to the next round,” said Ghalenoei.

“Tomorrow’s game will not be easy because we want to win and qualify to the second round as leaders. UAE are in a good condition under Paulo Bento, and it will not be an easy match, Also Palestine still have a chance to qualify and because of the spirit of fair play, we want to play at our best too.

“Every player in the team knows they should have their best individual performance in order for us to be successful.”

India ready for Syria

India were not surprised by the physicality of the teams in their Asian Cup group but now have experience to test their strength against Syria, skipper Sunil Chhetri said on Monday.

India are bottom of Group B after losing to Australia and Uzbekistan, teams who outmuscled them as they struggled to win duels across the pitch and failed to score a goal.

"One thing we knewfor sure was we would have to deal with their physicality. It wasn't a surprise when we drew Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria," Chhetri told reporters ahead of their final group game on Tuesday.

"What has helped us is we've had two games against teams that were quite physical. What's more important is we rectify the small mistakes we made (in the first two games).

"We can't change things completely, but knowing how we fared physically, we need to rectify mistakes. Playing those two teams has given us the experience we need to play physical games."

India coach Igor Stimac said they know what to expect as both teams look for a result that could help them qualify for the knockout stage.

"All three teams are similar, very physical and playing in a similar way. We didn't have many reasons to change our approach," Stimac said.

"What's interesting about Syria is they use the same 11 players, they have a small bench with two or three changes. They're obviously limited on the bench. We'll try and see how fresh they're going to be tomorrow."

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