Yahya Al Ghassani hopes goal-scoring form continues for UAE at Asian Cup

Winger starred in national's team win in tournament opener against Hong Kong

UAE's forward Yahya Al Ghassani scores from the penalty spot against Hong Kong in their Asian Cup match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. AFP
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UAE international Yahya Al Ghassani said he hopes to replicate the feeling of scoring for his country many more times in future, as he called for focus ahead of Thursday’s Asian Cup encounter with Palestine.

The Shabab Al Ahli winger helped the national team open their Group C campaign on Sunday with a 3-1 victory against Hong Kong, when he converted from the spot late on in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Introduced as a second-half substitute, it represented Al Ghassani’s debut for the UAE at a major tournament.

Asked afterwards about the emotions of netting for the national team on that stage, the forward told The National: “Of course, it’s a different feeling. Playing in a major tournament for your country is a something different.

“To score and to make everyone happy, to make your nation happy, is an unbelievable feeling to feel. I hope to continue this emotion because it makes me really happy.”

Al Ghassani, 25, confirmed manager Paulo Bento had requested he take his team’s second penalty at the Khalifa International Stadium, despite 19-year-old striker Sultan Adil opening the scoring with spot-kick in the first half.

“It’s because I’m already one of the penalty takers,” Al Ghassani said. “The coach asked me to take the penalty and I think he trusts me on that. The trust he gives me means a lot, and I hope I can convert penalties and even score more goals to repay that trust.

“As I said, scoring a goal, or assisting, or helping the team, is more than a feeling that I want to experience each time I play. I will keep this with me in every game. I hope I can continue this.”

The UAE, Asian Cup runners-up in 1996 and semi-finalists in the past two editions, sit second in the group, level on points with three-time title winners Iran. The top two teams are guaranteed to progress to the knockout stage.

Considered among the tournament favourites, Iran began their quest for a first continental crown since 1976 also on Sunday, easing past Palestine 4-1.

However, Al Ghassani said: “To get a win at the start of the group stage is really important, but we don’t want to stop at this. Because there are way, way more games to come.

“We have a really strong and hard game against Palestine next; they will be one of the strongest teams physically. So we have to forget about this first win, and we have to focus on the next game with the coach and the players.

“And only then I think we’ll be capable, Inshallah, to win this game also and go to the second round.”

Updated: January 16, 2024, 4:32 PM