Struggling 2019 Asian Cup hosts UAE need a fresh start against Laos, says defender Mohanad Salem
The ailing UAE must “erase the image” shown in last week’s alarming Trinidad and Tobago loss and belatedly kick-start their 2019 Asian Cup preparations on Tuesday against minnows Laos, according to veteran centre-back Mohanad Salem.
Under-pressure boss Alberto Zaccheroni oversaw a fifth-successive winless match when the undercooked Caribbeans – who had not played since April and only managed to train 24 hours before Thursday’s friendly – eased to a 2-0 victory at Catalonia’s Estadi Palamos Costa Brava.
This latest worrisome result forced the UAE Football Association to issue a public vote of confidence, with less than four months to go until they host the continental competition. Al Ain’s Zoran Mamic also distanced himself from talk of being drafted in, while legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate holds interest in the position.
For Boss defender Salem, the current coach’s eye for detail means he remains the right man to lead them into January 5’s big kick-off against Bahrain at Zayed Sports City.
“Laos is an opportunity for us to erase the image that we showed during the last match, in which we did not present the expected form,” said the 33-year-old warrior.
“All the players know how important this stage of preparation is. Everyone is keen to give everything in order to seal their place in the final squad.
“The technical staff must be praised for the way they help the players in all respects; technical, physical and psychological, as well as dealing with mistakes immediately.”
Former AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo Zaccheroni spoke in the aftermath of the need for increased fluidity between midfield and attack. This could see Al Ain centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman restored to the XI.
Al Nasr centre-back Khalifa Mubarak and Al Ain right wing-back Bandar Al Ahbabi are other contenders to start.
The Whites only threatened with pot shots against Trinidad. This was despite the fact 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout returned for the first time since January 5’s breaking of curfew before the consequential Gulf Cup final loss to Oman.
Laos are ranked 178th by FIFA, 101 places below the UAE. They have not played since March’s 2-2 draw v Bangladesh and are rebuilding after 15 current or former players were banned for life by the AFC in February 2017 for match-fixing.
When the nations last met in Abu Dhabi during June 2017, a 4-0 victory was earned by the Whites.
Thoughts of a free hit, however, are negated by the fact that Andorra were placed at 130th last month when a listless goalless draw was registered at the end of a three-week training camp in Austria.