UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final
UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final
UAE reached the final of the prestigious regional competition for the third time in a decade with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Iraq and they will be firm favorites for the match at Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium as they are 28 places above the Reds in the FIFA rankings and have a greater pedigree. But Khalil is not counting any chickens.
“Of course, it will be a tough game in the final,” the striker said. “We play against Oman, who we played in the first match, but this is a final, this is different. It’s true that we won the first game, but they are so strong, they are fast, they play very well on the counter-attack. We have to concentrate. We have to continue like this, we have to work. It’s just one game.
“We hope every player takes this point: that it is a final, that it’s not the same as every game. We have to do all our best and come back to our country as the champions. Friday is the final stop in our route to the title, and we will give our best against Oman. Winning is the most important thing for us, and whenever we see our fans’ happiness, it gives us the energy to work harder and try to bring joy to the UAE people.”
Omar Abdulrahman, the Al-Ain playmaker, brings unbridled joy to the Emiratis with his wizardry and the stage is set for him to light up Friday’s final.
“I’m not the only star in this team — we are as a team, we all help each other,” Abdulrahman said. “Our target was to reach the final and we have done that. So it’s a new step for us. We have to concentrate. We know the Oman team; we played against them.”
UAE beat Oman in Group A on Dec. 22 yet Oman actually topped the group as UAE could only muster goalless draws with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In fact, the UAE have only mustered one goal in 390 minutes of football — and that was an Ali Mabkhout penalty, leading to criticism of the cautious style under new coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
“I understand people say the UAE team didn’t play well, but it’s a new tactic, a new style of playing with an Italian coach and we have to understand what he wants from us,” Abdulrahman said. “We are trying to put into practice what he tells us. In the next game we have to correct the mistakes we made in the semifinal and we have to be 100 percent concentrated. I’m optimistic we’re going to win this trophy and come back to the UAE happy.”
UAE are two months into life under Zaccheroni, who replaced Edgardo Bauza who, of course, left to join Saudi Arabia. Under Zaccheroni’s watch, UAE have only conceded one goal in seven matches and are on a six-match unbeaten run, losing only to Haiti in his first game.
“I have only been here for a couple of months and I am looking to improve,” he said. “Our strikers did very well, even though they were not fully ready. We need more time to work together and build a strong side. We are gradually improving and that’s what matters.”
Zaccheroni has won Serie A with AC Milan, the Asian Cup with Japan and now gets the chance this weekend to add the Gulf Cup to his coaching CV. He feels his side might be at a slight disadvantage to Oman as they kicked off later than their opponents, thus giving them less rest time, and also had to contest a physically-demanding extra time and then the mental challenge of penalties.
“Playing 120 minutes is a tough load on the players, so we need to recover after playing every two day,” he said. “Oman are an organized side who play a modern brand of football. They qualified top of the group, but we beat them in the first match.”
FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi
- City frighten rivals with dogged defence added to their attacking flair.
- Lopetegui decision to leave Spanish national side seen in even darker light after awful start to the season.
LONDON: It was another eventful weekend across all the big European leagues, here is what we learned from all the results.
When you think of Manchester City, images of free-flowing, incisive, entertaining football — the very thing that we love the beautiful game for — doubtless pop into your head. That is what defined their record-breaking march to the Premier League title last season and has once again been in evidence this campaign. There is, however, another element that has been added to that seductive style: Dogged defense. Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side has now gone five league matches without conceding a goal. Admittedly Saturday’s clean sheet was secured against Burnley, but the one before was against title-chasing Liverpool. This is something that pleased the City boss, who said: “We are not giving away any goals, we are not even giving away chances … we have been solid.” The sight of City adding defensive solidity to their attacking flair will scare all of their rivals.
LOPETEGUI’S DODGY DECISION
We all make bad decisions, ones that almost as soon as they are made we regret. But some decisions prove to be worse than others, ones so bad that you wonder how they were made in the first place. We are obviously talking about Julen Lopetegui’s decision to quit as Spanish national boss to sit in the Real Madrid hot seat. The Madrid giants lost their fourth in five at the weekend and if he is still in the job by the time you are reading this then it will be a shock. It was not his call to leave the Spain side the day before the World Cup, but from the moment Lopetegui was given his marching orders in Russia things have gone from bad to worse for the 52-year-old. His exit paved the way for a disastrous tournament for the national team when they had the players to go far, if not possibly win the whole thing. Since that moment his reputation has not recovered — from hero to zero in four short months.
One of the perennial questions of the past 10 years has been “how would Barcelona fare without Lionel Messi?” Well, for a short time at least, we can now find out after the Catalan club’s talisman suffered a fractured bone in his right arm during the side’s 4-2 win over title rivals Sevilla. Three weeks on the sidelines will see Messi miss six matches. The first a Champions League tie against Inter Milan, the second the all-important El Clasico against arch-rivals Real Madrid. The time for Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Co. to step up is now.
BRITTLE BAYERN MUNICH
The Bavarian giants may have won Saturday’s clash against Wolfsburg, but there remain clouds hanging over FC Hollywood. The side lived up to its moniker last week thanks to some bizarre comments from two men not known for being shy about letting people know exactly what they think. After a four-game winless streak, club president, Uli Hoeness, and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, both former players, accused the media of “outrageous, disrespectful and polemical” reporting and warned them of possible legal action. Nothing like a bit of measured talk after a few bad results …