Arruabarrena promises a much-improved UAE in Arabian Gulf Cup group finale against Qatar

National team sit bottom of standings following two defeats from two games in Basra

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Rodolfo Arruabarrena says the UAE have the opportunity to turn around their image in the Arabian Gulf Cup when they close Group B against Qatar on Friday.

The national team have suffered back-to-back defeats in Basra to sit bottom of the pool heading into the final set of fixtures, with sealing a place in the semi-final a seemingly tough task.

The UAE, two-time regional champions, need to defeat Qatar by two goals at Al Minaa Olympic Stadium and hope group leaders Bahrain defeat Kuwait in their match, played at the same time, at Basra International Stadium.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference on Thursday, Arruabarrena confirmed he was not satisfied with the team’s performance thus far, saying: “We know that we were not up to the ambition of the fans.

“We intensified the training to avoid mistakes, to give a good account of ourselves. I always care about preparations, and our goal is to appear in a different way, to play with high concentration, and then we see the result of the other match.

“I said before that we are making a change in the national team and introducing new blood, and I focus on my work and equipping the players. I am solely responsible for any result.”

Arruabarrena, appointed as UAE manager in February, has been heavily criticised for his team selection – particularly the omission from the squad of all-time leading goalscorer Ali Mabkhout for “technical reasons”.

Argentine Arruabarrena, a former manager of Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli in the UAE and Al Rayyan in Qatar, took umbrage on Tuesday when a journalist asked if the Football Association had any say in which team he puts on to the pitch.

“No one else interferes in choosing the list, and the names that are present stem from my convictions,” Arruabarrena said. “I trained Boca Juniors and many Emirati clubs, and during my whole managerial career, I did not allow interference in my work.”

On Qatar, who opened their campaign with victory against Kuwait and then lost to Bahrain, Arruabarrena said: “The match is not a 'derby', but it is important for both sides. Qatar are a young team together with experienced players.

“I worked there and know them well, and they depend on possession and are able to apply high pressure. The last loss does not reflect their level.”

UAE winger Yayha Al Ghassani added: “We were not good at the beginning of the tournament, so we must improve the image, and we will not be satisfied except with victory against Qatar.

“We must achieve the goal because we represent our country. All the players are well aware of their responsibility.”

Updated: January 12, 2023, 3:19 PM