x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Gulf Cup: UAE can only get better after victory over Iraq, believes Mahdi Ali

The national coach believes the best is yet to come from his side after their dramatic Gulf Cup final win over Iraq.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali celebrates with his players after their Gulf Cup victory over Iraq.
UAE coach Mahdi Ali celebrates with his players after their Gulf Cup victory over Iraq.

Mahdi Ali believes the best is yet to come from the UAE national side after guiding them to their first Gulf Cup success in six years.

Ali, who steered the UAE's under-23 team to the London 2012 Olympics last summer, was hailed by his players after Ismail Al Hammadi's extra-time winner gave the national team only their second Gulf Cup title.

Most of that young side have progressed with Ali to the national side, and their efforts were rewarded in front of tens of thousands of cheering Emirati fans in the national stadium in Bahrain.

And afterwards the coach insisted there was more to come from his charges.

"My wish was to see our team perform at a high level, and they did so in this competition," he said.

"The team is progressing — hopefully we still have a chance to be better in the future."

Khamis Ismail believes the result will put paid to any talk of Ali's young side being too inexperienced as they turn their attentions towards the Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

"I thank God for this win, and I thank these fans who never stopped supporting from first whistle to last, and of course I want to thank the coaching staff," he said after the match.

"Today we answered those who thought this team was too young too inexperienced to win here, this tournament is only the start."

Mohanad Salem, the Al Ain defender, started the tournament on the bench before being given his first start against Oman and keeping his place at the heart of Ali's back line.

"In this team there is no reserves, everyone is first choice," he said.

"I thank the coach for giving me my chance.  Let's enjoy this victory and go forward from here, to the Asian Cup and ultimately to the World Cup."

The spirit throughout the side was evident, with player of the tournament Omar Abdulrahman hailing the team as the reason behind his success at the competition.

Hakeem Shakeer, the Iraq coach, hailed the new Gulf Cup champions as "the Dream Team" after watching his own highly rated side go down to Al Hammadi's goal.

"We ourselves have a golden generation right now and they contributed a lot to our success in the tournament," said Shakeer.

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