UAE manager Bert van Marwijk has warned his players not to underestimate Mauritania when they meet in the Fifa Arab Cup in Qatar on Friday night.
The two sides experienced very different starts to their Group B campaign on Tuesday, with the UAE defeating Syria 2-1 and Mauritania losing 5-1 to Tunisia.
However, Van Marwijk said Friday’s opponents at the 974 Stadium in Doha should not be taken lightly, as the UAE look to make it six points from six before facing Tunisia in their final group game on Monday. The top two sides progress to next week's quarter-finals.
“I think they saw our game and I saw their game,” Van Marwijk said on Thursday. “They are physically strong. They lost 5-1 but in the beginning of the game they got a few very big chances, so it could also be a different result. So we are being warned. And we have to be very concentrated.”
Tuesday’s victory against Syria will no doubt have helped raise spirits in the UAE camp. The win was achieved through first-half goals from Caio Canedo and Ali Saleh, however Syria did halve the deficit on the hour through Ward Al Salama to set up a nervy finish.
The UAE had to survive a couple of scares late on, with goalkeeper Ali Khaseif is particularly fine form. Meanwhile, at the other end, striker Ali Mabkhout continued to struggle.
The Al Jazira frontman, the UAE’s all-time leading scorer, should have made safe the result in the closing stages, but sent his effort well wide when through on goal.
“We are working to remedy some of the negatives that accompanied the players' performance in the first-round match against Syria,” said Van Marwijk, who has already set out his lofty target for the tournament. “We are keen to prepare the team as much as possible despite the short time, and we are working to get the victory.”