x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Ali's sights are on top spot

Having already achieved their first target of qualifying for the second round, the UAE have promised not to ease up against Hungary tonight as they look to secure the top spot in Group F.

United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali Hassan has high hopes  for his young team.
United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali Hassan has high hopes for his young team.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT// Having already achieved their first target of qualifying for the second round, the UAE have promised not to ease up against Hungary tonight as they look to secure the top spot in Group F. If they win, the UAE will top the group with seven points and remain in Alexandria to face the second team from Group E in the last 16, which could be Brazil, Costa Rica or the Czech Republic, depending on how their final-round matches play out tomorrow night.

Finishing second will give them a game against Venezuela, the runners-up of Group B, in Suez. If Hungary win tonight's match and Honduras get the better of South Africa in their tie then the UAE would go through as one of the four best third-placed teams in the competition. If that is the case, they play against the winners of Group C - Germany, Cameroon or the US - in either Suez or Ismailia, with the final games effecting those teams being played tonight as well.

The UAE coach, Mahdi Ali, is not keen on leaving Alexandria, where the team have felt at home with their large support, and he has set his side the target of getting three points tonight to guarantee that they stay on in the Mediterranean city. "Our goal from this game is to get three points and stay back in Alexandria for the second round," he said. "We want avoid having to travel to another city. So there is no way we are going to take this game lightly.

"Finishing off at the top of the group, with a win against a big side like Hungary, will also be good for the confidence of the team in the second round. "It doesn't matter who we face in the second round. Reputations don't matter in football, it's what you do on the day and your sincerity on the pitch counts. So we want to top the group and take it from there." Ali knows their task will not be easy, though.

Hungary, after failing to progress beyond the group stages at the four previous youth World Cups, had arrived in Alexandria as group favourites after an impressive run to the semi-finals of the European U19 Championship, which included a win over Spain. The young Magyars, however, floundered in the opening game, crashing to a 3-0 defeat against Honduras, but they bounced back strongly with a 4-0 beating of South Africa.

Now, Sandor Egervari's team need just a point against UAE to qualify for the second round and the coach is confident they can manage that, despite playing in front of 14,000 fans who will be supporting their opponents. "We're ready to take on the UAE and the crowd at Alexandria, who will be giving them their support again," said Egervari. "This will be a home game for them and a final for us. But we are mentally prepared for this. We have a good chance of reaching the last 16 and it is up to us to seize it.

"We know it will be a tough game and we are not expecting any favours from our opponents. But the important thing is our destiny is still in our own hands. "There are three teams competing for the remaining two spots from the group to join UAE in the second round, and we are one of them. "Nobody can make any predictions at this moment as the results have shown all the teams are closely matched. "The UAE, however, have looked the best team in the group. They have got some special players in the group like Ahmed Khalil, Theyab Awana and Amer Abdulrahman. They are certainly players to be respected and feared."

Egervari, too, has a few special players in his squad, three of whom are honing their skills with English Premier League team Liverpool in the shape of goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, and strikers Andras Simon and Krisztian Nemeth. "Hungary are an excellent side," said Ali. "Physically, they will be a tough challenge for us with fitness and height. Discipline is a strong characteristic of the team and, needless to say, they are really good at exploiting dead-ball situations.

"But we are confident of overcoming these odds and get the three points we want. "The team have been improving with every game and we are on course of achieving our objectives from this World Cup." arizvi@thenational.ae UAE v Hungary, 8.30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3 & ART Sport 4