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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Ali Salmeen calls on crowd to give UAE strength in Asian Cup semi-final against Qatar

Capacity crowd at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday can inspire the tournament hosts, insists the midfielder

Support from the stands can inspire the UAE to victory in Tuesday’s Asian Cup semi-final against Qatar, according to midfielder Ali Salmeen.

The Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is expected to be a sellout for the clash between the hosts and their Qatari opponents, as the UAE seek to reach the continental showpiece for only the second time in history.

The national team, who finished top of their group, secured their place in the last four courtesy of a spirited 1-0 victory against defending champions Australia in Al Ain last Friday. The official attendance for the match was recorded at 25,053, with a near-capacity crowd at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium cheering the UAE to the win.

Salmeen hopes for even more of a push in the capital on Tuesday, with the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium holding close to 41,000 spectators. On Sunday, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council gave away 18,000 tickets to fans for free.

Asked on Monday if he had a message from the UAE team to supporters, Salmeen said: “I think that our fans don’t need a message because they were with us from the beginning and I thank them for their support.

“I can say that they are the strength from which we can be inspired on the pitch. In the last game they came in huge numbers, so we hope in the next game there will be double those fans.”

Against Qatar, Salmeen will most likely once more start in midfield for the UAE, a role in which he has excelled of late – most notably in the quarter-final with Australia. The Al Wasl star, 23, was one of the standouts and has now played in all five of his side's matches this tournament.

However, Salmeen knows the size of the task that awaits, especially since Qatar have won their five matches this month and have still not conceded a goal. In their quarter-final, they upset the much-fancied South Korea in Abu Dhabi to triumph 1-0.

“This game will be a crucial game for me,” said Salmeen, sitting alongside UAE manager Albero Zaccheroni. “It’s a semi-final, and it’s very important because it’s being played in my country. My ambition is to get over this game and reach the final and win the title.

“As the coach has said, we are very well prepared for this game. Our focus is mainly on this game. We need to get over this one so we can reach the final.”

The UAE have only once previously contested the Asian Cup final, when they last hosted the tournament, in 1996. Then, they lost to Saudi Arabia on penalties. Four years ago, the national team took bronze in Australia – their best result on foreign soil.

Updated: January 29, 2019 08:34 AM

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