Zaccheroni urges UAE to take eliminated Kuwait seriously as Gulf Cup semi-finals beckon

Italian is wary of a backlash from the tournament hosts and is set to field an attacking team, led by Omar Abdulrahman.

Emirates' Italian head coach Alberto Zaccheroni instructs his players during their 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations football match between UAE and Oman at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Stadium in Kuwait City on December 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE
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Alberto Zaccheroni, the UAE manager, has warned his players not to take Kuwait lightly in their final Group A match of the Gulf Cup, despite the hosts already eliminated from the tournament.

The UAE, level on four points with Saudi Arabia but occupying second place due to scoring one less goal, will guarantee their place in the semi-finals with a draw against Kuwait on Thursday.

Kuwait have lost both of their opening games, to Saudi Arabia and Oman, and will be playing for personal pride against the UAE, something Zaccheroni is wary of.


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“We expect that and are ready to face Kuwait’s response. We have already discussed it with the players,” Zaccheroni said.

“Kuwait, even after losing both their games, are a pretty strong side. They can’t be considered as a weak opponent in any way.

“Even more, they will want to take their frustration out on us and try to finish their campaign with a win to satisfy the home fans. That will be the best they can do as the host team.”

While the UAE only need a draw at the Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium to progress, Zaccheroni insists his team will be playing for the win and has revealed he plans to field an attacking team.

“That’s very clear in our minds,” he said. “We don’t want to depend on the result of the other game.

“We are playing our third game in the competition and that’s enough time get our combinations and strategies right. We expect our players to raise their levels and play better than the previous two games.

“Of course we know we are playing against a side without any pressure but our players are experienced enough and they know how to deal with the situation.

“Obviously, to win a game we must score. We have worked on those areas we need to improve and hopefully the goals will come. We’ll have two strikers and Omar Abdulrahman who is free to play his own game.”

Al Ain captain Abdulrahman remains as important to the UAE as ever, and Zaccheroni is determined to allow his No 10 as much freedom as possible.

“He’s undoubtedly the best talent we have and I don’t want to restrict his movements on the pitch,” the Italian said.

“He’s free to play his own game and we think he can give his best when no restrictions are imposed on his play. That’s a playmaker’s role.

“Omar can make all the difference in a side and has the skills, abilities and a composed mindset to turn the game around for us at any time and any situation.”

Zaccheroni refused to reveal his line-up for the match against Kuwait, but is confident whichever players are chosen will be prepared.

“We still have a training session left and we’ll decide on the right combination against Kuwait,” he said. “I have the combination in mind but a lot of things can happen or change 24 hours before the game. Overall I can say we are ready for this all-important match and hopefully return with a good result.”