x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Olympics: UAE face tough task against Senegal

The Emirates football team are playing for pride while African opponents have one foot in knockout round.

Mahdi Ali's men have played well at the Olympics without yet earning a point. UAE Olympic Committee / AFP
Mahdi Ali's men have played well at the Olympics without yet earning a point. UAE Olympic Committee / AFP

COVENTRY, ENGLAND // The UAE footballers will attempt to gain a point tonight before leaving the London 2012 Olympics, but they will face a Senegal side who have been the most impressive in Group A thus far.

The Africans are tied with Team Great Britain atop the group with four points, and they can secure a place in the quarter-finals of the football tournament with a draw at the City of Coventry Stadium.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, suggested the Emiratis would be going all out for a result, but it would not be a surprise if several of the players who went 90 minutes twice in four days had reduced roles tonight.

Seven outfield players have been on the pitch 180 minutes, including the midfielders Omar Abdulrahman, Amer Abdulrahman and Khamis Esmail; the defenders Hamdan Al Kamali, Abdulaziz Sanquor and Mohammed Ahmed; and the striker Ahmed Khalil. The goalkeeper Ali Kasheif also has played every minute.

Senegal have impressed with their size and speed. Their most dangerous player has been Moussa Konate, the Maccabi Tel Aviv striker, who has scored all three of their goals. The third came during the hour his side played with only 10 men in a 2-0 victory over Uruguay.

The UAE have yet to win a point in an elite international competition. They lost three games at the 1990 World Cup and have defeats of 2-1 and 3-1 in their Olympic debut.

For the first time here, the Emiratis will not play before a large crowd. More than 70,000 thronged Old Trafford when they played Uruguay, and more than 80,000 were in the stands at Wembley for the Team GB game.

Team GB and Uruguay will play in Cardiff, and kick off at the same time - 7.45pm (10.45pm UAE) - as do Senegal and the UAE.

The early game in Coventry pits Japan and Honduras with the top spot in Group D at stake.