x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gulf Cup: The 'hunger' for win has increased

UAE are expected to field an unchanged starting XI from the side that defeated Qatar, and victory against the hosts will confirm spot in last four

Saeed Al Kathiri, left, and Abdulaziz Sanqour, centre, take part in a training session ahead of today's match with Bahrain. Courtesy of the UAE FA
Saeed Al Kathiri, left, and Abdulaziz Sanqour, centre, take part in a training session ahead of today's match with Bahrain. Courtesy of the UAE FA

The UAE team are not getting carried away by their opening day victory against Qatar in the Gulf Cup and Hamdan Al Kamali says the players remain focused for tonight's game against hosts Bahrain.

The Emirates defeated Qatar 3-1 in their Group A match on Saturday, impressing analysts with their fluent play and control. They have since been made the favourites to win the title, but the players are not allowing the compliments coming their way to go to their head.

"The win over Qatar in the first match will not make us feel arrogant or overconfident, and it will certainly not distract us," said Al Kamali, the central defender.

"We know this is just the first step and we have to keep improving and maintain our standards in the coming games.

"Of course, we are happy to win the first match, but our job is not over yet. We must stay focused for this match against Bahrain. They are the hosts and will certainly provide a tough challenge. So we need to be at our best to get a positive result."

A victory will confirm the UAE's spot in the last four of the tournament and that seems to be the target for the team.

"If we win this game, we will move closer to the next round," said Habib Fardan, the Al Nasr midfielder. "So we have to make sure we are [at full speed] from the opening whistle and show the world what this generation of UAE players are capable of."

Bahrain, who have never won the Gulf Cup title, were held to a scoreless draw by Oman in their opening game and Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, is expecting them to come out battling for a positive result.

"We will be facing the hosts and the home fans will be behind their team," said the coach, who is expecting to field an unchanged starting XI tonight. "Our players are used to playing under pressure after participating in many tournaments with the youth and Olympic team.

"We have made a good start [against Qatar] and that win has also increased our players' hunger for putting up an even better show against Bahrain. Hopefully, we will see a game that reflects the ambitions of both teams.

"Our goal is clear: we want to provide the best possible performance and do everything possible to achieve a positive result."

Gabriel Calderon, the Argentine manager of the Bahrain team, and formerly of the Pro League side Baniyas, has similar hopes of his squad after their disappointing show against Oman, when they failed to register a shot on goal.

"We do not have a [Lionel] Messi in the Bahrain team, so we cannot score in every game," he said. "In the week before, we managed to beat Guinea 3-0 [in a friendly match], with the same team and same style of play.

"So I believe in these players and, like I said before the start of the tournament, our group matches are like three finals for us. We did not lose the first one, now we need to make sure we win the second against UAE and strengthen our position in the group."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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