x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Gulf Cup: Kuwait the best option for the semi-finals

The UAE will face either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, the former would be the preferred opponents.

UAE's Ismail Al Hammadi, right, tries to hold of the tackle from Bahrain's Sami Al Housaini during their win this week. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters
UAE's Ismail Al Hammadi, right, tries to hold of the tackle from Bahrain's Sami Al Housaini during their win this week. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters

The UAE still have a group game to play against Oman today, but the fans can be forgiven for looking ahead to the semi-finals.

Whatever the results of today's Group A matches, Mahdi Ali's team are assured of the top spot in the group; only Qatar can equal their six points and the UAE have already beaten them.

And that is good news for the Emirates as they avoid Iraq- the top team in Group B - in the last four.

In their two games, the "Lions of Mesopotamia" have played just as their nickname suggests - very bruising and very physical football. And their count of yellow cards backs that up - they have seven from two matches.

The UAE's golden generation, who play a prettier and more pleasing version of the beautiful game, could have struggled against Iraq's domineering style of play.

The Whites love to pass the ball around, but the Iraqis gave Kuwait and Saudi Arabia little space for creative play.

Of course, Kuwait or the Saudis will not be any less formidable.

The Saudi Arabia stopped the UAE in the semi-finals of the last Gulf Cup in Yemen and they have won 11 of their 16 duels since 1990, the UAE have won two. Kuwait, on the other hand, beat them in both legs of 2014 World Cup qualifying in 2011.

The two teams have, however, been struggling in recent times and their performances in Bahrain have reflected that dip in form.

Between the two, though, Emirati fans will certainly be cheering for Kuwait to beat the Saudis tomorrow for a place in the semi-finals. Mahdi Ali's team beat them 3-0 in a friendly last September.

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