x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Omar is up for the cup

The former captain Mohammed Omar makes a goal-scoring return to the national side and vows to do everything he can to help the UAE retain the Gulf Cup.

The UAE's Mohammed al Shihi rises to clear but Hussein Rehema bundled the ball over the line for Iraq's equaliser.
The UAE's Mohammed al Shihi rises to clear but Hussein Rehema bundled the ball over the line for Iraq's equaliser.

AL AIN // The former captain Mohammed Omar made a goal-scoring return to the national side and then vowed to do everything he could to help the UAE retain the Gulf Cup. The veteran striker, who was playing his first international match in nearly two years, scored this country's first goal in the friendly against Iraq.

And he said: "For me, the most important job at the moment is to fulfill the trust of my coach. I think I had a pretty good first match but my performance will only matter at the real competition. God willing, I hope I can fulfill that promise." After the game fans gathered at the entrance to the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium to congratulate Omar on his comeback from internatinal retirement. Omar,33, who was given the captain's armband, which he wore in the historic Gulf Cup triumph in Jan 2007, said: "It is really funny when you are a striker. Sometimes you score from one opportunity and there are times when you miss out from a flurry of chances. When you score you become a hero and the villain if you miss."

The manager Dominique Bathenay did not single out any individuals but stressed he was concentrating on team work and in finding the right formula for the Gulf Cup from the two friendlies. The UAE face Kuwait tomorrow at Al Nasr's Al Maktoum Stadium before they fly to Oman on Jan 2 for the Gulf Cup from Jan 4 to 17. "We tried one combination with Iraq and we'll try another with Kuwait, and then see what is best for the Gulf Cup," said Bathenay.

"This is the first match we have played in more than a month and with a different combination. The result with Iraq, who are a strong team, was quite good for a first warm up game. Yet there are a lot of areas we need to improve and this can only be done with hard work in the next few days before the competition kicks off. We must also be realistic, and work with whatever talent we have got. "We can take a lot of positives from this game. We had more scoring opportunities than them, and we came back from a goal down to lead 2-1, which was a really good effort. But we surrendered that lead towards the end, which is an area we need to improve."

The Frenchman is expected to recall the forward Ismail Matar, the midfielder Abdulraheem Jumaa and the goalkeeper Majed Nasser. Abdulsalam Jumaa, the second player to be called up from international retirement, played a massive role controlling the midfield. He set-up both the goals for Omar and Mahmoud Khamis, and was one of the few players Bathenay used for the entire game. apassela@thenational.ae