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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

UAE's recent successes will boost Asian Cup title tilt, says FA president Marwan bin Ghalita

Marwan bin Ghalita points to national team's run to 2015 event semi-final and junior side's bronze medal finish at Asian Games

UAE, in red, have had a positive build-up to their Asian Cup campaign so far, including a draw against Honduras. AFP
UAE, in red, have had a positive build-up to their Asian Cup campaign so far, including a draw against Honduras. AFP

Winning the 2019 Asian Cup is “the dream we will aspire to achieve”, says the president of the UAE Football Association ahead of the tournament in the Emirates.

The UAE play host to the continent’s premier competition early next year, when they stage the event for only the second time in the country’s history.

The latest iteration, which takes place from January 5-February 1, has been expanded to 24 teams, with the hosts drawn in Group A together with Bahrain, Thailand and India.

The national team, the ninth-ranked side in Asia, will be intent on giving a strong display, with the FA declaring publicly already that a place in the final should form the initial target for Alberto Zaccheroni’s side.

At the most recent Asian Cup, in 2015, the UAE took bronze, while they finished as runners-up in the 1996 tournament on home soil.

Marwan bin Ghalita is confident of a good performance from the UAE football team at the Asian Cup. Victor Besa / The National
Marwan bin Ghalita is confident of a good performance from the UAE football team at the Asian Cup. Victor Besa / The National

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"Undoubtedly, we have huge ambitions," FA president Marwan bin Ghalita said in an interview with the Asian Football Confederation. "We want to compete for honours in regional, continental and international tournaments.

"In Australia 2015, our target was to reach the top four and we succeeded in the face of strong competition all the way from the group stage, only losing the semi-final to the hosts and eventual champions Australia.

"Third place was a very good achievement for this generation, which had already done so well in the [Under 21] and U23 levels. Fans are now hungry for the 2019 title, especially given that we were so close at home in 1996, when we lost to Saudi Arabia on penalties.

"The recent bronze medal [for the U23s] at the 2018 Asian Games is our second achievement in the competition after winning silver at Guangzhou 2010. These results will reflect positively on our national teams, giving the players a huge confidence boost ahead of upcoming challenges - especially the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.

"Winning that title is the dream we will aspire to achieve."