x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Olympics: Emirates worried about referee for Great Britain match

Great Britain captain Ryan Giigs is wary of Mahdi Ali's side ahead of meeting at Wembley stadium.

The UAE were impressive, particularly in the first half, in their opening match. Andrew Yates / AFP PHOTO
The UAE were impressive, particularly in the first half, in their opening match. Andrew Yates / AFP PHOTO

LONDON // Perhaps the greatest achievement so far by the UAE footballers at the 2012 London Olympics is this: Team Great Britain are showing no signs of assuming three points will be theirs at Wembley Stadium tomorrow night.

That might not have been the case three days ago, and perhaps rightfully so. Team GB have 15 Premier League players in their 18-man squad; all but one of the Emiratis plays in the domestic Pro League, a competition not often celebrated globally for the level of its play.

However, the UAE led Uruguay 1-0 until the 41st minute, before succumbing 2-1, and Team GB settled for a 1-1 draw with Senegal. With one result coming after the other at Old Trafford, an assessment that this could be a tight match was not difficult to make.

"It's going to be tough because UAE played some good stuff" against Uruguay, Ryan Giggs, the GB captain, said after the Senegal match, "but we're going to have to improve if we're going to get through. We'll have to win one of our next two games to have any chance of getting through."

The Emiratis will be fighting for a result to keep alive their chances to escape the group.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, chose not to attend the media briefing last night, sending his assistant in his place.

Ali was unhappy with the official for the Uruguay match and Hassan Alabdooli said: “We are not afraid of the British team, but the one thing we are maybe afraid of is that the referee is going with the host team.

“We will pray that the referee is neutral. The referee in the Uruguay game maybe cared too much for Luis Suarez and he didn’t have any mind for our players because he thought maybe we were weak.

“Tomorrow we hope the referee will not be influenced by the crowd and everything around him.”

With a team containing stellar names like Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey, the UAE would be forgiven for being a little overawed, but Alabdooli said the team will not be fazed by the task in front of them.

“We are not tourists here,” he said. “When we play against any team we don’t focus on the names or players It’s 11 v 11. We saw the British team play against Senegal.

“We saw some strong points and some weak points.”

It is expected the line-up will be little changed from the starting XI who opened against Uruguay. One possible adjustment might see Ismail Al Hammadi for Rashid Essa in midfield.

UAE’s chances of victory probably will hinge on an ability to control the centre of the park for long stretches of the match, and Omar Abdulrahman, widely lauded for his play against Uruguay, and Amer Abdulrahman will be key players there.

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