x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE defender Walid Abbas is back from a knee injury and says, 'Our preparation has been perfect' for their qualification match with Hong Kong, writes Amith Passela.

UAE players train ahead of their Asian Cup qualification match with Hong Kong, who are two points behind the visiting Emiratis in Group E. UAE FA
UAE players train ahead of their Asian Cup qualification match with Hong Kong, who are two points behind the visiting Emiratis in Group E. UAE FA

The UAE’s footballers are gearing up to send Eid greetings from Hong Kong to their fans back home when they play the hosts Tuesday night in a key Asian Cup qualifier.

“We want to give our people back home the perfect Eid present with a victory over Hong Kong,” the veteran defender Walid Abbas said. “This is a big game for us against another unbeaten team in our group but we are very positive of a good result. Our preparations have been perfect. We have had a good camp in China and ready for this important game.”

The Al Ahli left-back returns to the national team after a knee injury forced him out of the OSN Cup, a four-team friendly tournament in Saudi Arabia in September, which the UAE won.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, said his players are well-tuned for the match after the national team regrouped after more than a three-month break for the OSN Cup. “It’s a very important game for both teams because a good result will put whoever wins top of the group,” he said.

The venue of the match has been shifted to the 40,000-capacity Hong Kong National Stadium and Mahdi Ali expects the crowds to be behind the host team.

“They are trying every means to take advantage of their home game but that won’t have any effect on our players,” he said. “They are very experienced and have played in front of bigger and more hostile crowds before.”

Kim Pan-gon, the Hong Kong coach, is confident of maintaining their good form and keep their quest for a place at Australia 2015 on track.

“They’re one of the strong teams in our group and we know they are the strongest team in the Middle East; their Fifa ranking is 88, quite far from us,” Kim said of the UAE, who are 60 slots ahead of the hosts.

“I’ve seen a lot of video and we’ve studied them. They’re a very attacking team. I have a lot of respect for this team but we also are a strong team in defence, so if they want to get three points they will have to work.”

The UAE top Group E on six points followed by Hong Kong on four and Uzbekistan on one. Hong Kong hope to gain four points from two games with the UAE, tonight and in Abu Dhabi next month.

apassela@thenational.ae