UAE Under-23s face a defining match against China at the 2018 Asian Games
UAE coach Maciej Skorza has urged his troops to double their “work, effort and focus” in Sunday’s pressurised decider against rampant China as they attempt to avoid a first group-stage elimination at the Asian Games for 12 years.
The Under-23 team suffered a listless 1-0 opening loss to Syria in Group C, but rebounded with a 4-1 thrashing of minnows Timor-Leste. They now require a result at Indonesia’s Jalak Harupat Stadium against qualified opponents who’ve scored nine goals and conceded none in both victories.
With Syria playing helpless Timor at the same time, a spot as one of the four-best third-placed finishers is likely to be required by the UAE. They come into the final round of pool games with the second-best record among this number, with three points and a goal difference of +2.
“We will have to double our work, effort and focus throughout the game and not rush,” said coach Skorza. “The challenge is still in our hands and we will fight to achieve that.
“The players are well aware of what needs to be done.
“Despite the lack of time to rest and take breath, the technical and administrative staff have been working on the players in all aspects – technical, physical and psychological.”
Al Jazira forward Zayed Al Ameri struck twice in Thursday’s victory. Ittihad Kalba loanee Shaheen Surour and Al Wahda centre-back Salem Sultan also got among the goals.
This result has given the UAE a chance of making the round of 16 that Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club-bound forward Ahmed Al Attas does not intend to pass up.
He said: “All the team have agreed to give everything to achieve the positive result that will ensure we qualify.
“The task will not be easy, especially as China have shown a remarkable level and were able to harvest all six points.
“But the UAE players are able to overcome them because of our solidarity, fighting spirit and good discipline.
“All the players are keen to gain one of the qualifying cards and charge into the round of 16.”
The coming of a ‘Golden Generation’ was heralded by the UAE’s charge to silver in 2010. The nation then made the quarter-finals four years later.