x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Naser draws hope from UAE's opening Yemen performance

The UAE goalkeeper said the team's opening draw against Iraq has given them heart ahead of tonight's match against Oman, the defending champions, in the Gulf Cup group phase.

Majed Naser, the UAE goalkeeper, said the team's opening draw against Iraq has given them heart ahead of tonight's match against Oman, the defending champions, in the Gulf Cup group phase in Aden, Yemen.

"Confidence is back in the camp," said the Al Wasl stopper, who had an outstanding game, including a penalty save from Younus Mahmoud in the goalless draw. "Every team here is in with a chance, in my opinion. It is true we are not at full strength but the players in this squad have proved they can compete against any team."

The UAE are missing several regular contributors as they are without their Under 23 contingent, who were competing in the Asian Games, and any Al Wahda players, who are being rested for next month's Club World Cup.

All four teams in Group B have one point, and another draw would not be a bad result, according to Naser.

"Of course we want to win every game, but not losing will also give us a huge advantage to progress beyond the group stage. The one disadvantage is that we are not used to playing on the stadium's artificial surface," he said.

Oman, the 2008 champions are without Ali al Habsi, the goalkeeper who is first choice for the English Premier League side Wigan Athletic. Oman were unable to get al Habsi, on loan at Wigan from Bolton Wanderers, released from club duties as the Gulf Cup is not a Fifa sanctioned tournament.

"To be honest, my mind and heart is over there with my country," he told Wigan Evening Post. "It is a big competition, with millions of people watching on TV. But I want to concentrate all my attention to Wigan, because this is my team now."

In Group A yesterday, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait played out a 0-0 draw to take their tallies to four points after two games. Qatar recorded their first win - 2-1 against hosts Yemen who crashed out of the tournament - to move to three points. Kuwait play winless Yemen next, so it looks like a face-off between the Saudis and Qatar for the second semi-final spot

apassela@thenational.ae