UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final

UAE players celebrate after beating Iraq on penalties in the Gulf Cup semifinals in Kuwait. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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UAE will not take Oman lightly in Gulf Cup final

DUBAI: Ahmed Khalil says the fact UAE won the opening Gulf Cup group game with Oman will count for very little when the two side’s collide again on Friday with the prize of the 23rd Gulf Cup at stake.
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.”


Rory McIlroy ready to roll back the years in search of more Major glory at the Open

Updated 18 July 2018
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Rory McIlroy ready to roll back the years in search of more Major glory at the Open

  • Former world No.1 without a Major victory in four years.
  • McIlroy looking to play carefree as he goes in search of second Claret Jug.

Rory McIlroy knows what he needs to do to win the Open this weekend: Play as if it does not matter and go for broke.
The world No. 8 has won four 
Majors but, by his high standards, is in a bit of a slump, having not got his hands on one of the four big titles since 2014. That win came at the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, which came barely a month after his only Open victory at Royal Liverpool.
He tees it up at Carnoustie today with five top-fives this season, but only one win. However, with ever 
expectant fans and a game that when on song is better than anyone else’s there is expectation he can claim 
Major No.5 this weekend.
The Northern Irishman’s first Open came at Carnoustie 11 years ago and he is aiming to play the famous links in the same carefree attitude he did as a teenager, and hopes that lands him 
another Claret Jug.
“I do need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and I’m just happy to be here,” the 29-year-old said.
“(2007) was my first Open — I was just trying to soak everything in and I was just so grateful to be here. I think that’s a big part of it — if you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll be successful.
“As you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life — it’s only natural. For me, it’s more about 
playing with the freedom and I don’t want to say being naive but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff.
“When we last played The Open here, I was bouncing down the fairways and didn’t care if I shot 82 or 62 because I was just happy to be here. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play.”
For McIlroy that may well involve using the driver more than some of his rivals. The heatwave the UK has been experiencing has seen the fairways run firm and fast with many of his rivals such as Tiger Woods saying they will mostly hit irons off the tee. But for McIlroy the game plan will change from day to day.
“There’s not going to be one player in this field with a game plan on Wednesday night who will to stick to that the whole way around for 72 holes,’’ McIlroy said. “It’s just not going to happen with wind conditions, with pins. You start to feel a little bit more comfortable with a few shots, and you might start to take some on.
“It’s going to be really interesting, I think, because the golf course is playing so firm and fast, there’s some guys that will see it completely different to the way I see it and vice versa. It’s 
going to be really interesting to see how it all plays out.’’