National team reached the last-four after successive penalty shootout wins in Indonesia
UAE have 'nothing to fear' ahead of Asian Games semi-final against Japan
The UAE’s performances thus far at the Asian Games prove they have nothing to fear against Japan on Wednesday as the pair do battle for a place in the final, according to manager Maciej Skorza.
The Under 23s, technically the team below the Emirates' senior side, have survived successive penalty shootouts in Indonesia to book a semi-final clash with their East Asian rivals. The two teams meet at the Pakansari Stadium in West Java.
The UAE kept alive their hunt for the gold medal on Monday at the same venue, defeating North Korea on penalties after the match had finished 1-1 in normal time. In the previous round, they also required spot-kicks to get past hosts Indonesia.
Japan, meanwhile, defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the quarter-finals and as such head into Wednesday's encounter as favourites.
However, Skorza is confident his side can register an upset and seal a spot in the final, as the UAE go in search of a first football gold medal at the Games.
“The team improve with each match and possess a strong personality,” the Pole said. “Therefore, there’s nothing to fear when confronting any team. Our qualification to the semi-final is well deserved because the team have put in a lot of effort and time during the North Korea match and previously in the last-16 against Indonesia.
“We have set the bar pretty high, although the match against Japan won’t be easy. Our aim is to win and qualify for the final.”
The UAE have appeared at the Asian Games four times previously, with their best result the silver medal clinched by their much-vaunted team won eight years ago. Last time out, in 2014, the UAE reached the quarter-finals.
Ali Eid, the Al Ain striker who scored the equaliser against North Korea, is hoping to have the chance to emulate the 2010 side by at least making the final. He also praised the support the team have been provided in their quest to take another medal for the country this month.
“Collective effort has been given to achieve one goal, and that is to add an honorable achievement to the ones the UAE sports’ teams have done previously,” Eid said. “I am eagerly waiting for the great happiness, and scoring a goal against Japan would be my greatest joy.”
Meanwhile, Mohamed Al Shamsi, the goalkeeper whose save in the shootout against North Korea played a pivotal role in the UAE’s progression, paid tribute to goalkeeping coach Nader Lamiagri for his fine display at the tournament.
“As soon as he had assumed his role, there was an increase in the players’ level,” Al Shamsi said. “We have a strong trust in our potential and Lamiagri’s advice to me is the secret behind my glory.”
In Wednesday’s other semi-final, South Korea take on Vietnam.