x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Srecko Katanec stumped for the answers to the UAE's scoring problems

The UAE coach suggests a different approach regarding local strikers in the Pro League sides.

Walid Abbas, centre, scored an own goal to give Iraq victory.
Walid Abbas, centre, scored an own goal to give Iraq victory.

DOHA // Numbers never lie and in the case of the UAE football team they tell a disappointing tale.

Since Srecko Katanec took over the reins of the national team in June 2009, following the failed 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, they have played 21 matches and have failed to score in 12 of them.

Eight of those games were in competitive tournaments yet the players failed to hit the back of the net in five of those outings.

The problem of getting goals seems more profound in recent times, with Katanec's men scoring in just two of the eight matches they have played since they beat India 5-0 in November.

At the other end of the pitch, the UAE defence has performed a lot better, conceding 13 goals in the 21 matches and only three in the eight competitive matches.

As these statistics suggest, the lack of fire power has been the cause of UAE's underachievement, and at the Asian Cup they failed to score in their draw with North Korea and 1-0 defeat to Iraq on Saturday.

Katanec admits he can do little to correct this problem as long as the Pro League's 12 teams use so many foreign strikers.

"The problem is our strikers do not play [in the Pro League]," Katanec said. "So we have to find some solutions. I don't know what can be done. If they are going to play just foreign strikers at the clubs then it will be difficult.

"We cannot ask more from the players. They give 100 per cent and I am proud of the way they play.

"They did not score for many reasons. We were unlucky and hit the post a couple of times [against Iraq]. So it is really difficult to find fault. How can I expect more?

"The clubs have to do something. Maybe they need to play one local striker and one foreigner, otherwise it is difficult for the players too because they don't have practice."

The rustiness of UAE's strikers, particularly Ahmed Khalil, has been evident in Qatar. The team now face the uphill task of defeating Iran in their final game on Wednesday and also hoping North Korea beat Iraq.

If that happens, the team that triumphs by the biggest margin will go through on goal difference.

If Iraq draw their last game, then even a victory over Iran will not be enough as the defending champions will go through on the basis of a better head-to-head record.

The final scenarios are ones both teams will want to avoid. Should North Korea and the UAE both win 1-0, progression to the knockout stages will be decided by disciplinary record, and then, if the teams can still not be separated, the drawing of lots.

The UAE have the better disciplinary record, with two yellow cards to North Korea's four.

"I think we were equal to Iraq, if not better," Ismail Matar, the UAE forward, said after the Iraqi defeat. "Luck plays a big part, like it did for Iraq. So I don't think we have a problem scoring goals; we have just not been lucky enough."

Asian Cup matches

Qatar 3 // Kuwait 0

Qatar Mohammed 11’, El Sayed 16’, Cesar 86’

Qatar reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup for only the second time with an easy 3-0 win over Gulf rival Kuwait on Sunday. Two goals in five minutes at Khalifa Stadium set Bruno Metsu’s side on their way. Bilal Mohammed planted a far-post header into the bottom corner before Mohamed El Sayed curled in the second. Fabio Cesar wrapped up the win with a curling free-kick.

China 2 // Uzbekistan 2

China Yu Hai 6, Hao Jun-min 56’Uzbekistan Akhmedov 30’ Geynrikh 46’

Uzbekistan qualified for the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup by drawing 2-2 with China yesterday. Yu Hai put China ahead in the sixth minute before Odil Akhmedov levelled in the 30th. Alexander Geynrikh gave Uzbekistan a 2-1 lead in the 46th, but Hao Jun-min scored from a free kick in the 56th to level for China. However they still exited the tournament.

arizvi@thenational.ae