Now that the dust has settled, it is almost certain that Alberto Zaccheroni’s contract with UAE will not be extended following his side’s 4-0 loss against Qatar in the AFC Asian Cup semi-finals on Tuesday.
There is no doubt that the Italian was instrumental in getting UAE that far with some crucial wins, including the famous quarter-final triumph over defending champions Australia. However, following their departure from the tournament in the final four, it may be time for the Italian to move on from his role with UAE.
On Tuesday night, the team — despite having tremendous fan support at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi — couldn’t lift themselves once more and found themselves two goals down at half-time.
As they pushed to get back into the game after the interval, more gaps appeared and Qatar hit them on the break.
Veteran striker Esmail Matar showed his class probably for the last time in UAE colours. But his final stint ended in tears and he was seen making the long walk towards the team bus with swollen eyes — barely able to lift his head.
And now the team need to look ahead to the future, cast their nets wide to pick the perfect blend of youth and experienced players — and find a new man to lead them ahead of the qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup 2022.
A dejected-looking Zaccheroni revealed that he tried everything in his powers to get the UAE back in the game.
“Yes, we made some mistakes but we did our best,” said the 65-year-old, who was losing his first match of the Asian Cup since leading Japan to the title in 2011. “We tried to [give] a better performance to make the fans happy, and we tried until the end. They gave everything on the pitch.
“As I said, the players did their best but we couldn’t perform at the level we wanted to. I’m the coach and I take the responsibility for the defeat. The tactic we used didn’t work and we tried to change it in the second half but it was too late.
“To reach the semi-final wasn’t my expectation because I wanted to win the Asian Cup. For me, it’s not a satisfactory result. I took the team 15 months ago and we didn’t succeed in achieving our goals but I’m very proud to have worked with the UAE team.
“We were well prepared but couldn’t deliver to make the fans happy. We had the will power and all the players were in confident mood going into this match but it wasn’t our day.”
Zaccheroni added that in the last 15 months he has worked with dedication and has done his best with the technical staff.
“I gave the opportunity to young players and we did a lot of hard work to get them to a good level,” he said. “My contract with the UAE FA was until the Asian Cup.”
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