x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE women's football coach expects a tough final against Iran

Hassan Ajenoui, the UAE coach, pinpoints the Iran striker Rahimi as the player to watch in the final of the West Asian Women's Championship.

Hassan Ajenoui gave his players a rest day ahead of today’s final.
Hassan Ajenoui gave his players a rest day ahead of today’s final.

ABU DHABI // Hassan Ajenoui, the UAE coach, expects a more even game this time around when his side meet Iran tonight in the final of the West Asian Women's Championship.

The two sides met in the group stages of the tournament, with Iran winning 4-1.

"I expect it to be a 50-50 game," said the Moroccan-born Portuguese, who took charge of the team only one month ahead of the championship.

"They are very fast, physically strong team. I have watched all their matches and they have some very good players who can punish us on the mistakes."

The UAE, the defending champions, bounced back from the Iran loss to ease into the final of the eight-team tournament, with a 4-0 defeat of Bahrain in the semi-final.

Iran, in contrast, had to overcome a tough encounter against Jordan whom they edged out 3-2 in the second semi-final.

One player Ajenoui's side will have to keep an eye on will be the tall, pacey Iranian forward, Maryam Rahimi, who scored a second-half hat-trick against Jordan and netted twice against the UAE.

"She is dangerous because she can out run the defence if given the space," Ajenoui said. "Of course we will have a ploy for every player but will not be intimidated by any opposition. We have our own game plan and we will play to our own strengths."

Ajenoui has given his players a rest day ahead of the final at the Sultan bin Zayed Stadium, a plan that worked pretty well in the semi-final.

"The scheduling has been very taxing for all the players," the coach said. "We will be playing five matches in 10 days and that's very exhausting for players at any level. For that reason, I have given them enough time to recover.

"It is not only for my players but for all other teams as well. I wouldn't know how the others prepare their squad but I have given my players adequate time to recover. It worked for us in the semi-finals with Bahrain and it should work again for us in the final."

Iran's assistant coach was expecting this rematch. Maryam Esfahan said: "The two best teams are in the final. I had earlier said it was possible for these two teams to meet again in the final. The past result won't matter in the final."

Jordan, winners of the first two stagings of the regional championship and runners-up to the UAE when the event was staged for the first time in Abu Dhabi in March, will play Bahrain tonight in the third-place play-off.

Bahrain coach calls for more local players

Khalid Al Harbhan, the Bahrain coach, made a veiled attack on the UAE team after his side were knocked out by the hosts in

Monday’s West Asian Women’s Championship semi-final.“Playing foreigners in the national team is not going to help any country to improve women’s football or building a national team,” he said after the 4-0 defeat.

The UAE’s 22-member squad includes only two UAE-born players – Hamama Al Mansouri and Manal Al Hammadi. “We are trying to build a national team with local players and I am very satisfied with the performances in this competition,” Al Harbhan said.

“We were beaten but we were beaten by a very strong team. I feel we are moving in the right direction and we will make a stronger presence in the future. We were also without some of the key players because of injuries. But all in all, it has been a good competition for us. We are happy we reached the last four stage.” Bahrain topped Group A from Jordan, who they will meet in the play-off for third place in the match before the final. The group phase match between them ended in a 2-2 draw.


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