UAE’s Omar Abdul Rahman sparks a move during the friendly against Uzbekistan on Tuesday ‘I love challenges and I love difficult matches and so I’m happy to participate in this challenging tournament’. at the Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium in Ardhiyah, Kuwait.
Abudhabi: UAE start their campaign in the Gulf Cup today when they take on Oman in the opening day fixture The action starts at 9pm. This will be the first major assignment for the 64-year-old Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who took over from Mahdi Ali in mid-October.The UAE’s versatile playmaker Omar Abdul Rahman ‘Amoori’ will once again hold the key to the team’s success. The Al Ain forward was very impressive and was amongest the scorers when UAE won the title in 2013. The team comprises a good blend of youth and experienced players. Jazira forwards Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil will also have major role to play upfront. UAE team’s first training session was held at the Youth Club but Mabkhout and Khalil did not take part in full training. Mabkhout is still reeling from the absorbing contests in the recently concluded FIFA Club World Cup where his team Al Jazira created history by reaching the semi-finals before going down fighting to Spanish giants Real Madrid 2-1. Khalil’s availability for the contest was still under doubts and will be decided after consultation with the team doctor. With injury He had missed the entire Club World Cup and had spent most of the season on the bench since joining Al Jazira. UAE fans will be hoping that the ace forward would recover in time for the contest and make his presence felt straight away.With UAE’s ace goalkeeper Ali Khaseif, who made heads turn with his heroics against Real Madrid, also out with injury, the focus is also on Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa. Coach Zaccheroni was keeping the faith about the team’s chances in the competition saying, “We are focusing on the Omani team now, it is the first time we meet in the tournament. It is even tougher. The match will be keenly contested,” said Zaccheroni adding that he is very much looking forward to the challenge of leading the national team in his first official match as in-charge. I see that the Omani team is strong and has excellent players, and our group is strong. “We had played three games (Haiti, Uzbekistan and Iraq) since I took over, those were friendlies. I have been able to understand the players and bringing to light the mistakes we made. The boys are upbeat and require all the character to come-up triumphs,” revealed Zaccheroni, who felt that the tournament will serve him as a huge opportunity to learn about the capabilities of the players and their readiness for the official matches. I love challenges and I love difficult matches and so I’m happy to participate in this challenging tournament. “These matches will be very different from the friendly matches we have played. I respect the teams of the group and I think it is the toughest of the championship because it includes strong teams led by the Saudi team. Oman, on the other hand, has beefed up their arsenal with the inclusion of mid-fielder Raed Ibrahim, who plays for Malta club Valletta FC. Omani team has always been traditionally technical sound. We will, however, be giving our best and will fight to win all games,” asserted Zaccheroni adding that the only blow is the absentees and the fitness of few of the Jazira players. Ibrahim was included in the squad at the expense of Abdullah Nooh. The 35-year-old will be keen to finish this Gulf Cup, which is likely to be his last, on a high.“The importance is not about what you don’t have but it’s about what you have, so the 23-player list we have now is the most important for me.They have a legend in the goal – Ali Al Habsi, arguably one of the finest keepers to have emerged from the Middle East. He has figured for top Clubs in Europe – Lyn Oslo, Bolton, Wigan, Brighton and Reading before being back on familiar territory at Saudi’s Al Hilal.said by Oman coach Pim Verbeek. “At his moment, these are the best players I have got. My current focus is on the Gulf Cup and especially our opening game against the UAE. They are very strong, but I told my players as a team we have to work very hard and then we can be successful and surprise our rivals,” “We cannot judge about the chances, it will be clear after the opening games. It’s the only tournament I haven’t been to; so the only knowledge I accumulated is from what I heard and read. But I’m looking forward to being in the tournament as I know that it’s a very important domestically,” by adding Verbeek said, “The Gulf Cup is quite important for the Omani national team as well for the Omani fans. For me, it will help to know the tactical and technical performance of the team.”
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