x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Gulf Cup: Mahdi Ali's true goal has yet to be met

At the risk of being called a party-pooper, let us remember: this Gulf Cup final victory is a stopover. The destinations are Australia 2015 and Russia 2018.

The euphoria over their Gulf Cup of Nations victory will last a while, but Mahdi Ali, centre, and his team have more goals to achieve.
The euphoria over their Gulf Cup of Nations victory will last a while, but Mahdi Ali, centre, and his team have more goals to achieve.

The Gulf Cup was meant to be a stopover in Mahdi Ali's journey with the national team.

It turned into a milestone in their journey.

As in 2007, the UAE coach will be feted by all and sundry, along with his players, over the coming days as the celebrations over the triumph in Bahrain will continue for a few days.

Mahdi Ali certainly deserves it. The players deserve and the nation deserves it.

The celebrations of 2007 are among the fondest memories of my stay in this country and I am looking forward to a repeat of those scenes. But, at the risk of being called a party-pooper, let us remember: this was a stopover.

The destinations are Australia 2015 and Russia 2018.

The coach gave the same warning before he left the UAE for Qatar, en route to Bahrain. He asked for "moderation" and not "excess" should the team win the Gulf Cup. The nation would do well to heed his plea and the aftermath of the 2007 triumph should be a lesson.

After their Gulf Cup success at home the Bruno Metsu-led team of 2007 lost sight of their ambitions and bombed at the Asian Cup and in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

This is a different generation, though, and the chances of that happening are low.

For one, they are used to winning and adulation from a young age. And, unlike 2007, not many of these players are at the end of their careers. They have just stepped into the adult world of football; they have dreams of greater success.

In Mahdi Ali they have a man who will keep them grounded and focused. The UAE coach knows he and his golden generation have miles to go before they rest.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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