x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Katanec has confidence in his UAE strikers

Srecko Katanec, the coach, is convinced victories will come if his team can keep performing at the levels they did against North Korea.

Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, shouts instructions to his team last night. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, shouts instructions to his team last night. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

DOHA // The UAE's long-standing problem with scoring goals denied them a winning start at the Asian Cup last night, but Srecko Katanec, the coach, is convinced victories will come if his team can keep performing at the levels they did against North Korea.

The national side, with Ismail Matar and Ahmed Khalil as their spearhead, created a number of chances and dominated the game, but were forced to share the points after failing to find the back of the net.

"We have this problem in the area for a long time," Katanec said. "I don't want to explain here that our strikers in the Pro League, they don't play and they don't have too much practice.

"I cannot change a lot, but I will be satisfied again if we play like this. We have quality, so we will score, Inshallah, in the next game."

The UAE had a bit of fortune at the start of the game, when Hong Yong-jo, the North Korea captain, missed a penalty in the seventh minute. Katanec's side took charge after that and were relentless in attack despite North Korea's defensive tactics.

"If they had scored this penalty, the match would have been completely different," Katanec said. "After this penalty, my team took the match in their hands; they had the ball at their feet and we were the boss on the field.

"My team showed good character and nice skill. Unfortunately, even though we created a lot of chances, we didn't score. This is a problem.

"We did all other things and I'm very satisfied. I hope my team will play like this in the next two games as well."

Katanec has ruled out any changes to correct this problem and confirmed the same team will start against Iraq on Saturday. Their last group game is against Iran on January 19.

"I don't see a reason why to change the line-up," he said. "About 15 minutes before the end, I thought I'd change things a bit to see if we could have some luck.

"But I don't want to change a team who plays well. In the future, for the next game, we will see how we are with the energy. We have three strikers with us and I will try to find the best solution, but I must say that Ahmed Khalil had a solid game. He did his job and fought in defence. For his age, he showed a good performance."

A fourth striker, Theyab Awana, is injured but Katanec said: "Awana will stay out for two days after that he will resume training with us.

"But we played a great game, so with this I don't have a problem. I'd like to see Awana train and then we will see. He has been out for seven days and we will see if he is able to play."

arizvi@thenational.ae