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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 February 2019

Ali Mabkhout focused on team success over 'personal awards' after firing UAE into Asian Cup semi-finals

Al Jazira striker scored the winner against Australia on Friday to become the highest-scoring Arab in the tournament's history

UAE goal-hero Ali Mabkhout says personal accomplishments matter little to him as he focuses instead on firing his country to a first Asian Cup crown.

The striker, top scorer at the 2015 tournament, notched the winner on Friday night in the quarter-final against defending champions Australia in Al Ain. Mabkhout scored with 22 minutes remaining, taking advantage of a sloppy error from opposition defender Milos Degenek.

The goal took Mabkhout’s tally for the month to four and, when added to the five goals he struck to claim the Golden Boot four years ago, lifted him to become the highest-scoring Arab footballer in tournament history.

However, the Emirati forward said he would trade any individual achievement for helping the UAE, runners-up in 1996 and third at the most recent tournament, take the overall prize.

“I am so proud of myself in scoring nine goals at the Asian Cup, but I don’t care about personal awards,” Mabkhout said. “My objective in this tournament is to win the cup for my country.

“I am always ready to serve my country. And when I score that’s luck from God. It’s always our aim to win and to take it match by match. It’s a system we’ve been using since the groups were finished.”

Despite topping their group, the UAE had failed to impress in draws against Bahrain and Thailand, and in the wins against India and Kyrgyzstan. That had led to criticism of both the team and manager Alberto Zaccheroni, although the victory against Australia at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium was by far their best display.

“Our target is always to win, in any match,” Mabkhout said. “We don’t care about our performance on the pitch, the result is more important for us. And after each match so far the level of performance is improving, and that’s significant.

“We don’t care about the voices from outside that the performances are bad, the performances are bad. We just care about what we have to do on the pitch.”

The UAE face Qatar in the semi-final on Tuesday, with the match to be played at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The other semi-final, between Iran and Japan, takes place the previous day at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Updated: January 26, 2019 11:43 AM

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