UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni deemed this month’s training camp in Spain a success, despite mixed results that prompted questions about his future.
The Italian, tasked with leading the hosts at January’s Asian Cup, came under fire last week following defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly in Girona. The 2-0 reverse extended the UAE’s winless run to five matches, with last month’s draw against Andorra the only game during that spell in which they were not beaten.
However, the national team defeated Laos 3-0 in another friendly at the same venue on Tuesday, providing some much-needed respite. The Asian Cup, taking place in the Emirates for only the second time, is less than four months away. The Spain camp represented the second of five get-togethers in the build-up to the tournament.
Zaccheroni praised the players’ spirit and commitment during the 12 days in Girona, saying they gave their “full compliance” to whatever was asked of them.
“The work of the coach is to prepare and equip the technical issues to suit the players' abilities, so that the team performs as best it can on the pitch,” the former AC Milan and Juventus manager said. “The objective of these friendly matches is to develop the positives and address any negatives so we can avoid them in future.
“The players are implementing the vision of the technical staff on the field. The camp was successful and achieved the targets set.”
The UAE meet again next month, with a camp in Barcelona scheduled for October 6-16. There, they will face Honduras and Venezuela, as Zaccheroni has intentionally chosen stronger opposition than the UAE have played recently. Laos are ranked 178th in the world by Fifa, 101 places below the UAE. Venezuela sit 31st, while Honduras are 61st.
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Meanwhile, goalkeeper Ali Khaseif said the players were determined to defeat Laos on Tuesday to lift the mood around the camp. Although Zaccheroni appeared to be under pressure – following the Trinidad and Tobago reverse, the Football Association released a statement supporting the manager – the Al Jazira captain quelled rumours of a rift between the former Japan manager and his team.
“Coach Zaccheroni has a close relationship with the players and is keen to hear and understand our point of view,” said Khaseif, who also called for the media and UAE fans to stand behind the team. “The atmosphere during the Girona camp was very positive.
“All players are highly responsible and understand the importance of this stage. They do their best to prepare for the Asian Cup in the most appropriate way.”