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.”
Saudi Arabia errors causing problems for Juan Antonio Pizzi
- The Saudi Arabia coach was speaking having watched his side draw 1-1 with Iraq in Riyadh on Monday
- Despite snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat the Chilean coach admitted he was happier with the Green Falcons
RIYADH: Juan Antonio Pizzi has told the Green Falcons they can kiss goodbye any chance of Asian Cup glory unless they stop committing sloppy errors.
The Saudi Arabia coach was speaking having watched his side draw 1-1 with Iraq in Riyadh on Monday — a match that once again laid bare the Pizzi’s players’ propensity to gift the opposition goals.
The hosts were facing defeat at the King Saud University Stadium after Muhanad Ali put Iraq ahead after 71 minutes but there was relief in injury time as Abdulaziz Al-Bishi scored deep into added time to salvage a draw.
Despite snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat the Chilean coach admitted he was happier with the Green Falcons after their 2-0 loss at the hands of Brazil on Friday.
“We did not meet the level we have set for ourselves (against Iraq),” Pizzi said. “We were not at the level that we saw against Brazil. Iraq played well in defense and were well-organized. Iraq also took advantage of our mistakes during the game.”
Individual mistakes have littered Saudi Arabia’s matches over the past few months and were in evidence in September in a 2-2 draw with Bolivia. Once again, Iraq took advantage of a sloppy pass at the back to score the opening goal to leave the hosts chasing the game.
Pizzi is all too aware that the side cannot afford to continue being generous to the opposition ahead of the Asian Cup.
“Repeated individual mistakes do have an effect,” said the 2016 Copa America winning coach.
“We also need to take our chances when they come.”
Errors at the back and a lack of a reliable goalscorer are the major issues going forward into January where they will face North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar in their group.
Pizzi handed a debut to Niger-born striker Abdulfatah Adam but the Al-Tawoun struggled to make an impact before being withdrawn before the hour.
Overall, however, the coach is positive about the upcoming continental tournament.
“It is good to see what we need to do ahead of the Asian Cup. These two games with Brazil and Iraq have given us a chance to look at some of the players and their readiness.
“I am a serious coach who works with precision and effectiveness and this will stand us in good stead of the Asian Cup.”
The coach was buoyed by praise from Brazilian star Neymar, talking ahead of the South American clash with Argentina.
“I was not surprised by the level of Saudi Arabia against us,” the Paris Saint-Germain forward said.
“We saw at the World Cup what they could do and this is a team that I feel has lots of potential. They will develop further in the coming years.”
Iraq coach Srecko Katanec was left frustrated after the 94th minute equalizer cost him a first victory with Iraq since taking charge of the team last month.
“We deserved to win but decisions went against us at the end when we should have had a foul given against us,” the Slovenian said before taking the positives from the game.
“We played well against a strong Saudi Arabia team in Riyadh and the overall performance was a strong one.”
Iraq lost 4-0 to Argentina last Thursday and bounced back to give the former UAE coach hope ahead of the Asian Cup and group games against Iran, Vietnam and Yemen.
“We haven’t had much time together on the training pitch so there were lots to be encouraged about in two games against good teams. We need more time to build team cohesion and improve our organization.
“I have been happy with the players and there is obviously a lot of talent here.
“We are developing and gradually improving.”