x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE prepare for Thailand test in final of the Challenge Cup of Asia

The UAE can win the competition for the second time in four years with victory in India today.

The UAE's Mubarak Al Mazrouei was surprised by how comfortable the UAE were in their 15-0 thrashing of Malaysia.
The UAE's Mubarak Al Mazrouei was surprised by how comfortable the UAE were in their 15-0 thrashing of Malaysia.

The UAE will look for a repeat performance against Thailand tonight when they meet to decide the winners of the 2012 Challenge Cup of Asia.

They reached the final after a 15-0 demolition of Malaysia while Thailand edged out Kuwait 5-4 last night in Dehradun, India.

The UAE remain the only unbeaten side in the seven-team ice hockey competition and now start as favourites. They meet Thailand in a rematch of the opener in the group stage, which they won 4-3.

"The team has been improving after every game and I think we have reached a very good level ahead of the final," said Mohammed Aref Al Jachi, the UAE defender.

"We knew we had a good chance of coming through this semi-final game but didn't expect such a score line. The confidence is very high in the camp after this result but we still need to be at our best for the final. "From the onset we knew Thailand would be the team we will meet. They are a pretty good side and we expect a tough game."

The UAE have been runners-up the past two years, behind Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong, after an initial continental title in 2009, when the event was staged in Abu Dhabi.

The success the UAE enjoyed at home changed the structure of the sport at the domestic level with the establishment of the Emirates Hockey League and several development programs, both for youth and women.

"The league consisting of both Emirati and expatriate players from the established hockey nations like in Canada, the US and in Europe has really helped us to sharpen our skills," Al Jachi said.

"The experience we have had playing in a very competitive league in the past three years has provided us the experience as well as kept us in good shape."

apassela@thenational.ae