UAE players eye elusive title
The UAE players celebrate after scoring against Australia.
Abu Dhabi - Matar said there is more unity among players and redoubled efforts to secure the title
By Ashwani Kumar
Published: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 9:03 PM
Last updated: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 11:10 PM
The UAE outfit played like champions against Australia in the AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals. The players said they had doubled their efforts to secure the semifinals berth and will push further to win the coveted trophy at home - a chance they said comes once in a lifetime. The UAE finished runners-up when they last hosted the tournament in 1996.
And now the players are eyeing to go one better and the charge is led by skipper Ismail Matar who has stunned one and all with his tenacity on the pitch. He has been sensational and brought greater cohesion in the squad. He said the semifinal berth is great achievement but there was work to do.
"To be honest, for me, it doesn't really matter (semifinal spot) because we are looking to bring something which we don't have before (Asian Cup trophy). Our fans, our Highness are proud of us. And this is an opportunity to play at home. Some players don't get to play even one tournament at home. So if you don't use this chance then it is your mistake. Maybe such an opportunity will come again only after 30 or 40 years. Maybe my son will play, I don't know, maybe he doesn't. I don't know."
Al Wahda veteran said there is more unity among players and redoubled efforts to secure the title.
"We had more understanding. We knew how Australians play. We realised they are strong with aerial balls. The UAE coach did a good job. We had a good solution to counter the aerial duel. We had put more effort than usual and I wish we continue like that," Matar added.
Ali Mabkhout scored his fourth of the tournament and ninth overall to take the 'Whites' a step closer to the title. Al Jazira striker said the players were united in realising the title dreams. "We were all highly focused and it helped us to get past Australia. Now we are all focused on the next game."
We all have strived hard to put our best effort to make the fans happy. I am glad to have played my role in this performance. Playing our heart out is the least we could have done in response of the kind of passionate support we have received so far. We aim to reach the final. We want to fulfil the aspirations of our fans."
Keeper Khalid Eisa noted all players are wary about their responsibilities.
"Yes, it was a strong performance from the backline. But you cannot give full credit to the defenders. It was a team effort. Everyone played their roles to perfection. We knew it will be a difficult game and were prepared for the situations. We hope to continue like this."The UAE now face Qatar in the semi-final at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday (6 pm).