Five things left for UAE to look forward to at Asian Cup

Ali Mabkhout can win a tight race for the Asian Cup's golden boot when the United Arab Emirates face Iraq for the consolation prize of finishing third on Friday.

Ali Mabkhout is joint top-scorer at the Asian Cup with four goals. Courtesy UAE FA
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The UAE take on Iraq on Friday in the third-place play-off at the Asian Cup. Here is a look at five things the UAE can gain from the game in Newcastle, Australia.

Grabbing the top scorer award ...

Ali Mabkhout sits on four goals in the competition, level with Jordan’s Hamza Al Dardour. Australia’s Tim Cahill on three could yet overtake the pair. A goal or two against Iraq could confirm Mabkhout, right, as the competition’s top scorer to add to the award he earned at Gulf Cup of Nations in Saudi Arabia in November. It would be a magnificent personal achievement.

... and the best player, too

This could be a chance for Omar Abdulrahman, should he play, to give his growing army of fans one last virtuoso performance. The public and media in Australia have been gushing in their praise for the Al Ain midfielder. This could be a relatively pressure-free match for him to showcase his skills and perhaps secure what would be a deserved player-of-the-tournament award.

Involving the “group”

Mahdi Ali has consistently said there are no reserves in his squad. Inevitably, however, at this level he needed to stick to a settled team. This is an opportunity to give those who have patiently waited on the bench to get a taste of the action in Australia, with a medal to play for, no less. The coach has already said that some of the first-choice players will receive a well-earned rest.

Bowing out on a high note

Most managers would gladly do without this fixture, but for Mahdi Ali the title of Asia’s third-best team has a nice ring to it, having consistently targeted a top-four finish since taking over as UAE coach in 2012. A win in Newcastle would also leave the UAE record in this competition at an impressive four wins from six matches. A loss would bring a more downbeat three defeats in the team’s past four matches.

A chance to bid Australia farewell

From their Gold Coast training camp to the Newcastle semi-final, the UAE have made friends everywhere they have been with their brand of football and friendliness to the public. A feature of their matches was how many neutral locals would get behind them. Today would be an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to those who have generously taken them into their hearts.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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