The 'Whites' haven't quite delivered the expected results so far in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on home soil. The UAE haven't yet grabbed a stellar result. In a tournament where small teams are making waves, the UAE have yet to make their presence felt.
In their three group games, the UAE escaped with a draw against Bahrain courtesy a late penalty, registered a 2-0 over unlucky Indians and were held to 1-1 draw by Thailand.
Even though head coach Alberto Zaccheroni said that all is well with the team, there is an evident lack of ideas when going forward and creating chances to score. The goals have come through individual brilliance and luck.
However, the team finished on top of Group A with five points and will next meet Kyrgyzstan which qualified for the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams.
The do-or-die match at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Monday is an opportunity for the home side to exhibit the prowess of Emirati football.
Skipper Ismail Al Hammadi said the players realise the need to enhance their performance and were doing their best in training sessions at New York University.
"We are all ready to fight. We are all motivated. We all will do everything possible to defend the reputation of the UAE football. I have faith in the abilities of the players. I hope all of us can perform to the level needed to win," he said.
The midfielder said the team was focused and united in their ambition.
"The game against Kyrgyzstan is of great importance as the winners enter the quarterfinal. We cannot look at any other result than victory. It is a decisive game. We hope for a positive result to make our fans happy. We need to combine everyone's efforts. We are putting in lot of hard work to realise our dreams and with united effort we will win," he added.
Defender Mohamed Ahmed said the players have the ability to go all the way.
"We have topped our group. Now it is a difficult stage. Only the winner will remain in the tournament. So we know it will not be easy but we are prepared. We are all confident about qualifying for the quarterfinals. We have bigger ambitions than that. We are all focused on following and implementing instructions from the coaching staff," he noted.
Khalifa Mubarak said the players were aiming to secure the title at home and create history.
"We all know what is at stake. We all have the resolve to secure the needed result. We will fight for full 90 minutes.
"We are aiming for the title at home. We are eyeing the podium finish and cannot leave the tournament before that. So we will put our best foot forward. We want our fans to lend full support so that we can achieve our aims," he said.
The UAE have taken three successful steps and face an upbeat Kyrgyzstan in their fourth assignment. The home team will be aiming not only to win but do that by playing some beautiful game and giving Asia a slice of Emirati football.
By Ashwani Kumar
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