UAE Under 23 manager Maciej Skorza has paid tribute to his side following their clinching of the bronze medal at the Asian Games.
The UAE sealed third place at the tournament in Indonesia on Saturday, when they defeated Vietnam 4-3 on penalties at the Pakansari Stadium in west Java. The match had finished 1-1 after normal time.
The win represented only the second time the Emirates have won a football medal at the Asian Games after Mahdi Ali’s celebrated side captured silver in 2010. That group went on to become the first from the country to qualify for the Olympics - at London 2012 - and today forms much of the senior national team.
In Indonesia, the UAE's current U23s showed impressive resolve to take the bronze. They came through successive penalty shoot-outs in the last-16, against hosts Indonesia, and the quarter-finals, against North Korea, before losing 1-0 late on to Japan in the last four.
Given the disappointment of last Wednesday’s semi-final defeat, Skorza praised his young side for rebounding with a famous victory three days’ later.
Tokyo 2020 next after UAE beat Vietnam to win fifth Asian Games bronze in Indonesia
Tottenham's Son wins Asian Games gold to avoid military service
“The players were up to our expectations and the bronze medal was well deserved,” he said. “The players had pledged after the Japan match to use all their potential, give everything to win and return victorious to their homeland. And they have indeed achieved their goal.
“We would like to thank all the technical and the administrative team as well as the players for their efforts and commitment to the programme. We extend our thanks as well to the football league and the national team committee for their thorough preparation and provisions that were necessary for the team’s success.”
Skorza said focus would now turn to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, with a meeting looking ahead to that scheduled next March with the technical committee and league officials. The Pole added that he expects to add players to the squad that performed so well in Indonesia.
The Football Association president, Marwan bin Ghalita, echoed Skorza’s sentiments regarding the support provided to the team, saying: “We congratulate the manager of the Olympic football team on the bronze medal. We appreciate the effort the team have put to represent the nation in the most desired way.”
Mohamed Al Shamsi was one of the standouts of the Asian Games campaign. The Al Wahda goalkeeper made telling contributions en route to the bronze medal, most notably in the shoot-out victories. On Saturday, he repelled brilliantly Tran Minh Vuong’s spot-kick to seal the win and spark wild celebrations among the UAE camp.
“We were aiming for the medal, especially after our loss against Japan in the semi-final, which had impacted us to a great extent,” Al Shamsi said. “But now I am even more confident after I stood out from the crowd following my penalty saves against Indonesia during the last-16 match and North Korea in the quarter-finals."
The Emirates enjoyed a record Asian Games, taking 14 medals in all with three golds, six silvers and five bronze.