'Mohamed Salah is not superman' says Kuwait coach ahead of friendly with Egypt

Mohamed Salah will miss Friday's game with Kuwait because he is preparing for the Champions League final. (Getty)
Updated 23 May 2018
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'Mohamed Salah is not superman' says Kuwait coach ahead of friendly with Egypt

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait coach Radojko Avramovic is disappointed his players will not get the chance to test themselves against Mohamed Salah on Friday night, but still feels the friendly against Egypt is an important step on their road to recovery.
While Salah will be preparing for the Champions League final against Real Madrid, Kuwait will host Egypt in Kuwait City in what will be only their fourth match since FIFA lifted a two-year ban on the side over government interference in management of the country’s football federation. There have been friendly defeats at the hands of Jordan and Cameroon in March before a 2-0 win over Palestine on May 11.
“For a long time, we did not play and it will take time to recover,” said Avramovic. “Each game we play, we see an improvement and that is the target. We are starting to play some good football. We played well in the second half against Cameroon and against Palestine.”
Egypt will be a different level of opponent. “Now we can see how good the players really are, but we are at home and want to give the fans something to cheer,” said Avramovic.
The North Africans, who have been drawn with hosts Russia, Uruguay and Arabian rivals Saudi Arabia in Group A, are not just missing Salah. Aston Villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady is preparing for a Premier League promotion playoff, while Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny is recovering
from injury.
Avramovic is curious as to how his defenders would have handled Salah. “He is one of the best players in the world and it would have been good for us to test ourselves against him, but he has an important game,” said the former Notts County goalkeeper.
“Everyone in the Arab world is proud of him and he is a great example of what can be done. He shows the future of Arabic football and it is the same for Kuwait. It is good to go to other countries and face different kinds of players.”
The coach, who led Singapore from 2003 to 2012, is wary of Egypt, even without their talisman. “He is a great player, but Egypt didn’t qualify for the World Cup just because of him —  he is not superman. They have lots of good players. This game is a great chance for us to see where we are. We want to be playing at World Cups in the future and this shows us how far we have to go. At the moment, we are focused on winning games and not just trying players out.”
After Kuwait, Egypt, who started their pre-World training camp in Cairo on Monday, travel to Italy to take on Colombia and then to Brussels to face Belgium on June 6. The team kicks off their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on June 15.
“We are trying to reach the best form before the World Cup. This game will be very important for us,” Egypt coach Hector Cuper said earlier this month. “The Egyptian fans will attend the match against Kuwait — they are waiting for us and we want to please them.”


UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni admits performances have been poor ahead of Socceroos clash

Updated 22 January 2019
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UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni admits performances have been poor ahead of Socceroos clash

  • UAE boss still under spotlight despite side reaching lasts-eight, where they will face Australia.
  • Hosts struggled to beat Kyrgyzstan in second-round after underwhelming group stage.

LONDON: Having guided your team to the last eight of the Asian Cup, it must seem strange to find yourself on the defensive. But that is the situation Alberto Zaccheroni, right, faced after leading the UAE to a second-round win over Kyrgyzstan.
The hosts were strongly fancied to see off the Central Asians in their knockout clash in Abu Dhabi, but were taken to extra time and the likely drama of penalties when Ahmed Khalil grabbed the winner in the 103rd minute.
The performance added to the impression that the Whites have made the quarterfinals through luck rather than ability. The team has looked far from impressive during the group stage and anything but possible winners overall.
They now face reigning champions Australia — and even the UAE boss admitted they will have their work cut out unless they improve. “I admit that against (Kyrgyzstan) we seemed to struggle with long ball and crosses, and we also had one or two chances to score and secure the game, but we didn’t convert those opportunities,” the Italian former coach of AC Milan and Juventus said.
“We will try to correct all the things that we believe were less positive between now and the quarterfinals. We now have three days to assess our squad and their injuries before we face a strong Australia team.”
Usually when a team reaches the later stages of a big tournament, players and coaches ignore the performance and pretend all is grand — generally with an emphatic declaration that they will win the title.
Zaccheroni’s post-match reaction was anything but bombastic, however. That is not only a pleasant change but also an appreciation that the UAE have been anything but impressive in their march — in fact, more a slow plod — to the last eight.
This is Kyrgyzstan’s first Asian Cup, and they are far from world-beaters. Playing at home with hopes of lighting the trophy on Feb. 1, the UAE should have easily beaten the Central Asian outfit.
Goals from Mirlan Murzaev and a dramatic late equalizer from substitute Tursunali Rustamov canceled out strikes by Khamis Esmaeel and Ali Mabkhouts. On top of that they hit the bar and the post. It took a controversial Khalil spot-kick to win the match, one that left the Central Asians with a bitter taste in the mouth.
“I don’t want to talk about the referee,” Kyrgyzstan coach Aleksandr Krestinin said.
“We leave the tournament with a lot of regrets — we deserved more. It’s our first Asian Cup, but I’m sure it won’t be our last and we will come back stronger.”
There is a sense the UAE cannot play much worse than they have so far, and the hope will be that they can find a good performance in the quarterfinal against the Socceroos. If they are to shock the reigning champions, they will need Khalil to find his scoring boots again.
“Ahmed Khalil is a very good striker, he is one of the best in Asia,” Zaccheroni said of the 2015 AFC Player of the Year.
“When I took over the UAE team (at the end of 2017), he was injured and had not trained for a long time. He has also been injured many times recently and did not play often for his club.
“Nevertheless, he is a very good player, and I have to say that I rely on him a lot. He does so much for the team.”