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Asian Cup: UAE take on 'one of strongest teams' Iran in final group game

The UAE national team train ahead of the match against Iran in Group C
22 Jan 2024 22:12

Kuumar Shyam (Abu Dhabi)


The 2023 Asian Cup is heading into its final matchday of the group stages in Qatar and, thanks to 16 of its 24 competing nations qualifying for the knockouts, most nations involved still have plenty to play for heading into their final fixtures.


The UAE is among those who should have it easy going into their final Group C match against table leaders Iran but manager Paulo Bento is not willing to look ahead into the knockout stages, yet. Palestine and Hong Kong are the other teams in their group.


"We deal with each match separately, and we move through the tournament step by step, so that our full focus is on the match in front of us, and after finishing it we think about... Next, we have to fight in every match and work to achieve a positive result."


The top two finishers from the six groups all advance automatically to the round of 16, where they will be joined by the four best third-placed finishers. Should two teams finish level at the end of their group's fixtures, their head-to-head meeting will be used as the first tiebreaker, followed by goal difference, goals scored, fair play points and, finally, drawing of lots.


A win for the UAE would see them top the group, but a loss would give Palestine a faint hope of ensuring advancement with a heavy win over Hong Kong, with their goal difference five adrift of the Emirates.


On the international stage, UAE have been at the losing end in three contests against Iran since 2015, the margin being identical – by one goal. Hong Kong and Palestine will effectively be playing an elimination game, with both nations realistically needing a win to hold out hope of progressing as a third-place finisher.


After a convincing 3-1 win over Hong Kong, China in their opening fixture, the UAE were held to a 1-1 draw against Palestine in a game they finished with 10 men after defender Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent-off in the 37th minute. Bento also received a red card just before the final whistle, meaning he will be suspended for the Iran clash.


"The last game was difficult for us, especially after we went down by a man in the 37th minute," Bento said at the pre-match conference. "We prepared our strategy for the next game against one of the strongest teams in Asia and the strongest in our group.


"It is a team that is composed of very good, experienced players, some of them play in high level competitions. They play together for a long time and they don't change their way of playing too much. It is a team that is easy to see their strengths, but not easy for the opponent to counter them, so we need to make a very good game in many aspects.


"We should be clever in the way we play against Iran and compete very well and be humble to accept that in some moments we will not dominate the game, so we have to control it in a different way, and reach the best possible result in a different way."


Bento's counterpart Amir Ghalenoei expressed happiness, but warned his side still had areas to work upon. "We did have some problems, our passing accuracy was not great, we gave an opportunity to the opponents and their chances came from mistakes of our players, but I want to say thanks to all my players for the effort they put in against Hong Kong."

 
 
 
 
 
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