x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE cannot afford any more mistakes in U23 Gulf Cup

Mahdi Ali, coach of the UAE Under 23 squad, says that with the loss Sunday to Oman, his team must now 'win all the remaining matches' to successfully defend their title in the Gulf Cup.

UAE Under 23 coach Mahdi Ali wants his team play with more urgency when they face Bahrain.
UAE Under 23 coach Mahdi Ali wants his team play with more urgency when they face Bahrain.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic team coach, questioned his players' hunger to defend their Under 23 Gulf Cup crown ahead of Tuesday night's make-or-break clash with Bahrain.

Oman handed the UAE a 3-2 defeat in their opening game on Sunday night.

Ali's side must now beat Bahrain at the Aspire Academy in Doha to qualify for the semi-finals from their group

"We must face reality," Ali said.

"We were beaten by a team that had more hunger to win, and we must respect them without finding any excuses.

"We made a lot of mistakes, and that's a different issue."

Oman had to win to be in with a chance of making the semi-finals after losing their first match 1-0 to Bahrain.

"They achieved their goal," Ali said.

"We have the same task. We must win and take our place in the semi-finals. I have told my players to put that game behind us and think of the game ahead.

"I have a lot of faith and confidence in my players beside their abilities."

Ali's players have had little time to prepare for tonight's showdown.

"This game has become crucial for us, and obviously we would like to have every possible advantage to be on our side," he said.

"Oman were in the same situation, and they showed real character to win against us.

"We have a more experienced squad, and they can handle this situation we are in at the moment. It is very clear that from now on we must win all the matches to retain the title."

Ali is also missing some of his key players - Hamdan Al Kamali, Ahmed Khalil, Theyab Awana and Adel Al Hosani - who are all drafted in the senior national team preparing for next month's World Cup qualifier against Kuwait.

And Omar Abdulrahman, the midfielder, is recovering from knee surgery. "Again I am not finding excuses for missing those players," said Ali.

"Our preparation for this competition has been without them. Of course we miss some of the key players, but that is not a worry."

The UAE's defeat to Oman was their first loss since November 25, 2010, when they fell to Japan at the Asian Games final in Guangzhou, China. Since then, they have beaten Sri Lanka and North Korea in a pair of two-leg 2012 London Olympic qualifiers.

 

apassela@thenational.ae

 

FIXTURES

Tuesday

Bahrain v UAE (10.15pm)

Qatar v Kuwait (12.30am)

Friday

Semi-finals

Saturday

Final