Ismail Matar hopes to end Asian Cup goal drought for UAE against Bahrain
Al Wahda striker has never scored in the competition as he and his country prepare for opening game at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday
Ismail Matar is no stranger to the Asian Cup.
The 2019 tournament, which starts on Saturday with the UAE taking on Bahrain at Zayed Sports City Stadium, will be the fourth one the 35-year-old Al Wahda striker will have been involved in.
But remarkably, given he has scored some of the most important goals in his country's history, he has never found the net in an Asian Cup game.
This is something the veteran forward is eager to change, though he acknowledges he will be happy to remain scoreless if the UAE can get a winning start in Group A in their bid to win the tournament for the first time.
“This is a good chance for me to make a good effort and score a goal in front of the home fans,” said Matar.
“I don’t know if I can achieve that or not, but I’ll try. However, more important is for the team to win, especially when we are playing in front of our home fans."
Matar is the oldest member of Alberto Zaccheroni's squad, but he does not expect it to be simply a case of him passing on advice to the younger members of the squad.
“I think in football what we have learnt and whatever the experience we have, we are still learning,” he said.
“There are things I can teach others in the team but there are things I can learn from them.”
There is a lot of expectations on the UAE, who finished third four years ago in Australia and were runners-up in 1996 the last time they hosted the tournament.
Matar admitted that getting three points on the board against Bahrain would help alleviate some of the nerves.
“It’s the most important game for us because this result can relieve a lots of pressure,” he said.
“All those made it in to the 24 are strong teams and have equal chances. At the end it will be the best team on the pitch.”
Updated: January 5, 2019 08:44 AM