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.”
Al-Hilal fine tune preparations in Austria and integrate new boy Andre Carrillo
- Saudi champions play Slovenia’s NK Kalcer Radomlje on Sunday
- Peru World Cup star Carrillo has trained with his new teammates
LONDON: “So far, so good.” That is the message coming out of the Al-Hilal ranks as the Saudi Arabia champions start their preparations for the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League season at a training camp in Austria.
Within the first week of their arrival in Europe, the defending champions have welcomed their 2018 World Cup contingent back to action, have strengthened their ranks with a high-profile international signing and won their first warm-up match with plenty to spare.
New coach Jorge Jesus is happy with the way it is all going ahead of the big kick-off next month.
“It is good to be here as the temperatures are much better for playing football,” Jesus, who was appointed in June, told Portuguese television. “It’s cooler here than back in Saudi Arabia with temperatures there over 40 degrees. Everything is going well, the players are training hard and we are working to be ready for the new season.”
The Riyadh giants have been training in Europe for a week and kicked off their build-up with a 5-0 thrashing of local team Rapid Lienz on Thursday. The scoreline included a brace from Brazilian midfielder Carlos Eduardo and a strike from Syrian forward Omar Khribin. Both stars missed large parts of last season with injury.
Ali Al-Habsi was between the sticks in that victory over the Austrians and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.
“We are still getting accustomed to the new coach as every coach has his own style,” the former English Premier League star said. “The coach’s style is different and we will get to know him at this training camp and all has been going well so far.
“We have been focusing on defensive organization and also trying to improve our attacking play and we know that we still have a lot of work to do.”
On Thursday, the defending champions welcomed back seven of their Saudi Arabia internationals from Russia. As well as Salem Al-Dawsari, who scored the last-minute goal against Egypt on June 25 to give the country a first World Cup win since 1994, Abdullah Otayf, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohamed Kanoo, Ali Al-Bulaihi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf are now in full training.
They have been joined by a new arrival in the shape of Peruvian international Andre Carillo on a one-year deal from Benfica. The winger, who previously worked with Jesus at Sporting Lisbon and spent last season on loan in the English Premier League with Watford, should add firepower to the two-time continental champions.
“This is a new stage and challenge in my career,” said the 27-year-old who scored for Peru against Australia in the 2018 World Cup to give the South Americans their first win on the global stage since 1978. “I am ready for the challenge and would like to thank (Al-Hilal president) Sami Al-Jaber for believing in me.”
Coach Jesus is pleased with his new signing. “It is not always easy to convince top international players to come but he agreed and is excited to show what he can do,” he said. “I know Carillo well and asked him to come and join me. I am sure that he will fit in well with his new team.”
Al-Hilal continue their preparations with a clash with Slovenia’s NK Kalcer Radomlje on Sunday. Then come games with Fortuna Dusseldorf of Germany, Turkish team Akhisarspor and then a final European test against Serie A side Udinese.