x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Preparation pays off for UAE football as winning ways continue

After second title of 2013, squad wants to keep momentum going while setting their sights on Hong Kong for a crucial Asian Cup qualifier, Amith Passela reports.

UAE collected more silver Monday when they beat New Zealand in the OSN Cup final. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
UAE collected more silver Monday when they beat New Zealand in the OSN Cup final. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Wrung out and rusty?

None of it mattered much for the UAE national team in Saudi Arabia on Monday night.

Despite the heat and early season fatigue, the UAE claimed their second title of 2013 when they won the four-team OSN Cup in Riyadh, defeating New Zealand 2-0 to add to their Gulf Cup triumph in January.

"The results are more remarkable, as my players had very little rest when they joined the national team straight from the training camps with their respective clubs," UAE national team coach Mahdi Ali said.

The timing, otherwise, could not have been better, he said.

The results in this competition were heightened, he said, because the team is preparing for a crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Hong Kong next month.

"The culture of winning is important, as it gives the players the incentive and the belief to play against any opposition," the coach said. The UAE received goals from Ahmed Khalil in the 11th minute, and from man-of-the-match Ali Mabkhout in the 56th minute.

New Zealand finished the match with 10 men after Ben Sigmund was sent off.

"My players did an excellent job to win the two matches against strong opponents," the UAE manager said.

Like with most national teams this time of year, the start of domestic seasons such as the Arabian Gulf League put preparation time at a premium.

"This type of preparation is not new to us, however," he said. "We have had to deal with such situations before important matches, but fortunately for us most of them have been playing together from the age-group level and know each other very well."

The UAE travel on October 1 for a camp in China, where they are scheduled to play friendlies against Malaysia and an undetermined foe.

They then will fly to Hong Kong for the Asian qualifying game on October 15, and a good result there will put them on course for Australia 2015.

"Our participation in this competition provided the coaching staff to get to know some of the players better, especially those who came in as cover for the injured players," Mahdi Ali said.

"Looking ahead, we want to engage a larger number of players and provide them more playing opportunities in order to create a bigger squad to pick from."

Ali Kasheif, the UAE captain, said: "We trained hard and I am extremely glad with the way we performed. This win gives us more confidence to play international tournaments and teams."

Omar Abdulrahman, who won the tournament's top-player award, praised the team effort in the wins over Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand.

"We were returning from the summer break and gathered for the first time in more than five months, yet the players didn't show any rustiness of a team that was coming after a long layoff," the midfielder said.

"We played two excellent games, and although this tournament was a friendly, we can take a lot of positives from the results.

"As for the award, I am happy and have to give credit to my teammates, as always, for providing me quality passes and creating the space for me to manoeuvre."

apassela@thenational.ae

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