x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bahrain get call from King Khalifa

Bahrain players in buoyant mood ahead of match against Australia after a phone call from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Bahrain

A phone call from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has left the Bahrain players in buoyant mood as they attempt to record a first victory over Australia and reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals. Bahrain need to beat the highest Fifa ranked side in the tournament today if they are to reach the next stage with Australia requiring only a point at the Al Sadd Stadium to make the last eight. Bahrain have lost all four previous meetings against Australia, but the royal phone call boosted spirits in the camp. "The call raised the level of moral and spirit among the players. This call is a decoration on our chest," Salman Shareeda, the Bahrain coach, told reporters. "His majesty's call was very much impressive and expressive and shows his majesty is following up on his sons and his citizens. He is satisfied with our performances."

Iraq

Celebratory gunfire following football-mad Iraq's crucial Asian Cup triumph over the UAE on Saturday killed three people and left 24 others wounded, officials said yesterday. Shots were fired into the air in several Iraqi cities immediately after the final whistle blew in the national side's 1-0 victory over the UAE thanks to an injury-time own goal, despite government warnings in recent months against such shows of joy. Police said the celebratory gunfire killed three people and wounded 10 others in the central province of Diyala, while 11 were injured in Baghdad and three in the northern city of Kirkuk. In early December, Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, called on Iraqi football fans to refrain from firing their weapons into the air after victories for the national side, demanding "legal measures" to be brought against those who do.

Australia

Holger Osieck, the Australia coach, is glad that his team have control of their own destiny at the Asian Cup. A win or a draw against Bahrain today will put his side through and Osieck said: "We are in a position where we have our fate in our own hands. If we put in a good performance we will definitely achieve our target. We don't consider anything other than a victory. When you try and play a tactical game [for a draw] you lose your direction, strength ... you definitely should avoid this." South Korea, seeking their first title since 1960, are expected to easily sweep aside the tournament's lowest ranked side India and join either Australia or Bahrain in the last eight.

North Korea

Jong Tae-se, the North Korean striker, is desperate to revive his killer instinct with his team facing a must-win game against Iraq, the holders, for a quarter-final spot tomorrow. "I've been too reserved to shoot because I thought too much about how to use teammates playing around me," said the 26-year-old Bochum marksman, whose side are goalless after two games. "But next time I will force myself to shoot and get a goal for the team. It may go loose or bounce off a defender but it'll be great if it hits the net in the end."

Uzbekistan

Server Djeparov, the Uzbekistan captain, says his side will not be satisfied with their showing at the Asian Cup until they have reached the semi-finals for the first time in their history. Djeparov, the 2008 Asian Player of the Year, has scored twice in Qatar and was man of the match during his side's 2-2 draw with China on Sunday, teeing up Odil Akhmedov as Uzbekistan topped Group A. They now face the Group B runners-up Jordan for a place in the last four. Uzbekistan have fallen in the last eight at the last two tournaments, losing on penalties to Bahrain in 2004 and falling 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in 2007. "I think we have to qualify for the semi-finals this time," said Djeparov, who plays for South Korea's FC Seoul.