x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE coach issues rallying cry ahead of Olympic qualifier

Coach confident ahead of clash with Uzbekistan at Al Ain as qualification for London 2012 intensifies

Mahdi Ali has coached the players through a number of age groups.
Mahdi Ali has coached the players through a number of age groups.

Mahdi Ali, the Olympic team coach, has told his players that nothing less than a win is expected of them when they face Uzbekistan tonight.

Ali and his side are no strangers to success and the coach made no secret of his objectives against the Uzbeks.

"There is no question on what we want to achieve from this game," Ali said. "We always play to win and this game will not be any different."

The Emirate coach has led his side to the Under 19 Asian Cup in 2008, the quarter finals of the Under 20 World Cup in 2009 and the Asian Games final last year and he is confident the team spirit that has been built up through age group competitions can carry then through to the London Games next year.

"To have been together for a long time has been our strength," he said. "The other important fact is the success they have had in the past few years.

"However, having said that, we must not be thinking of the past results but play true to our potential all the time to be successful.

"The expectations have always been high for this team and that's not unusual for a because of the success we have had in the age group competitions. They are very experienced lot and they can handle any pressure."

The Olympic team lost 4-2 to Belarus in a friendly four days ago and Ali felt that game provided an incentive for him to work on some of the weaknesses of his team ahead of tonight's qualifier at the Khalifa bin Zayed stadium in Al Ain.

"We started our preparations two weeks ago and took a lot of positives from the friendly against Belarus, who play quite similar to Uzbekistan.

"It doesn't matter where and under which conditions we play, but we play to win."

Ali has the full squad at his disposal after several of his key players such as Hamdan Al Kamali, Faisal Khalil, Mohammed Fawzi, Mohammed Ahmed and Amer Abdulrahman were left out by Abdullah Misfir, the senior national team coach, for the dead rubber 2014 World Cup qualifier against Kuwait.

"The players have had enough time together and they are all ready for this game," Ali said.

Uzbekistan won their opener against Iraq 2-0 while the UAE returned with an away point from a scoreless draw with Australia.

Vadim Abramov, the Uzbek coach, has also tasked his players with taking three points.

"The players have shown good technical standard and we are confident of a positive result. It is game that is important for both teams,"