x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Asian Cup: Mahdi Ali insists the UAE are all in it together

Coach Mahdi Ali insists there is more to this UAE side than Omar Abdulrahman.

UAE National football coach Mahdi Ali.
UAE National football coach Mahdi Ali.

ABU DHABI // The UAE are not a "one-man" team and can succeed without star player Omar Abdulrahman, according to manager Mahdi Ali.

Abdulrahman, the 20-year-old Al Ain playmaker who emerged as a key player for club and country, has pulled out of the squad, set to face Uzbekistan today in Asian Cup qualifying, because of injury.

Mahdi Ali is confident his team will perform regardless at the Mohammed bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi tonight.

"Omar has excellent skills and has performed well in recent times but he not being in the team won't make us weaker. We have enough players as cover up and to do the job for us," he said at the pre-match conference at the FA headquarters yesterday.

It was a sentiment shared by his counterpart, Mirdjalal Kasimov.

"Omar is a player with high technical skills and excellent qualities in the midfield, but I believe the UAE are much stronger as a team than one individual player," the Uzbek coach said. "The players in this team have been together for a long time. That would be their biggest advantage over any opponent as they know each other so well."

When asked if Azizbek Haydarov, the midfielder who plays for the Pro League club Al Shabab, was of any help in divulging the UAE's formula, Kasimov said his team have done their own homework.

"Yes, we discussed the Emirati players, but most of the information on the UAE team was from our own findings. We have monitored them for quite some time and have watched all their games in the Gulf Cup to set our own game plan."

Mahdi Ali, 47, who took charge of the senior national team in August on a three-year contract, went undefeated in five games en route to the Gulf Cup success in Bahrain in January.

Before that, the Emirati's record stands in seven friendlies stands at five wins, a 2-2 draw with Uzbekistan and a 1-0 away defeat to Japan.

Mahdi Ali ranks Uzbekistan as one of the top four teams in Asia.

"The outcome of this game would be crucial for both teams," he said. "Three points for us from this game would certainly put us in a strong position, and that will be our objective."

The UAE head Group E on three points following their 2-1 away victory over Vietnam while Uzbekistan were held to a scoreless draw at home to minnows Hong Kong in the opening round of the qualifiers.

The top two teams at the end of the group stage will advance to the finals, which will be held in Australia in January 2015.

apassela@thentional.ae

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