Ali's delight at UAE's resolve in reaching the semi-finals

Mahdi Ali believes the UAE have shown their strength of character by reaching the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup

Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic team coach, said his players showed their true character in winning when it mattered to reach the semi-finals of the Under 23 Gulf Cup.

Ali had questioned his squad's desire following an opening defeat to Oman, which left them needing to win Tuesday night's encounter against Bahrain to reach the knockout stage. They achieved their goal in style, trouncing the Bahrainis 5-1.

"I told my players to put the first game behind them and play their usual attacking game," said Ali.

"In football, every team makes mistakes but the good teams can bounce back. I have high hopes on this team and they just proved it.

"Although we lost to Oman, I was quietly confident we would make it to the semi-finals. The players showed their true character when they were pushed to a corner.

"They not only scored from the chances they created but defended well."

The victory on the indoor pitch at the Aspire Academy in Doha sent the UAE top of Group B, earning them a meeting tomorrow with Qatar, the hosts, in the semi-finals.

The UAE beat Qatar 2-0 in a friendly before the start of the championship, but Ali had a stern warning for his squad.

"Sometimes they tend to take it easy when they know they have beaten this team," he said. "[This] is a new game and more at stake for both teams."

The quick turnaround between matches, coupled with Ramadan, is creating difficult conditions for the teams in Qatar.

"It is tough for the players because there is not much time for the players to recover," Ali said. "We had just one day before our second game and now two days before we play Qatar. It is the same for all the teams and it is hard for the players."

In tomorrow's other semi-final Saudi Arabia play Oman


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Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM


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