x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Gulf Cup: Final destination within reach for UAE

A member of the FA board of directors is confident Mahdi Ali's team can beat the defending champions Kuwait in their Gulf Cup semi-final.

Ismail Matar celebrates with an Emirati supporter after the UAE secured their semi-final spot on Friday. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters
Ismail Matar celebrates with an Emirati supporter after the UAE secured their semi-final spot on Friday. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters

A member of the Football Association's board of directors is confident Mahdi Ali's team can beat the defending champions Kuwait in tomorrow's semi-final and reach the showpiece game of the Gulf Cup.

The UAE finished at the top of their group in Bahrain, with impressive performances against Qatar (3-1), Oman (2-0) and the hosts (2-1). They now go into their last-four game against the 10-time champions as favourites, and board member Rashid Al Zaabi expects them to do well.

"We, the officials of the FA, are proud of this promising generation of players, who have performed honourably in all their matches and achieved the dreams and aspirations of their fans," he said.

"The next step for them is the semi-finals and we all are confident this team can cross that station and reach the final, especially since a large contingent of fans will be there to support them.

"The team did not waste any time in celebrating their progress from the group and they have been preparing for the next match with a lot of focus and in a positive atmosphere."

Walid Abbas, the Al Shabab left-back who started the game against Oman, was happy to play his part as the UAE finished their group engagements with three wins, but the team's target is to repeat the success of 2007, he said, when the UAE won the Gulf Cup at home.

"Our real task starts [in the semi-final] and the team is determined to win the next game and grab our ticket to the final," he said. "So we still have some unfinished business."

Obaid Al Shamsi, an FA vice president, urged the country's fans and media not to go overboard in their praise of the team's achievements in the group matches.

"The players know they still have a difficult mission ahead and they are focused on crossing the next stage and hoping to reach the final," he said.

"I believe they have the experience that will help them achieve their ambitions, thanks to their success at different tournaments including the 2012 London Olympics."

Like the earlier matches, the team will have plenty of support in the stands as Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, has provided six planes to fly fans to Bahrain for the semi-final encounter.

"The team is really lucky to get such support from our leaders," said Ismail Matar, the captain of the UAE team. "Such gestures increase the motivation levels of the players and we are determined not to disappoint our supporters, and win this game to reach the final."

FA book 100 seats for women to travel

Airline seats reserved for Emirati women supporters have increased to 100 for the Gulf Cup semi-final pitting the UAE against Kuwait in Bahrain tomorrow, according to Abdulkadir Hassan, an official at the Football Association.

Half that many spaces were reserved for women in charter flights to a group-stage match last week.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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