ABU DHABI // It is still too early to judge Srecko Katanec's reign - that is likely to come after the Gulf Cup in November - but the portents certainly look encouraging after the resounding defeat of Kuwait on Tuesday night. Goals from Ahmed Khalil, Ismail Matar and Saeed al Kathiri fired the national side to a 3-0 victory at Al Nahyan Stadium in what was the first meeting of the two nations since the UAE beat Kuwait 1-0 in the Under 23 Gulf Cup final last month. Katanec's side will play three further home friendlies - including one against Angola in October - before the Gulf Cup starts in Yemen on November 22.
The Slovenian seems certain to use the fixtures as opportunities to further blend the mix of youth and experience he has at his disposal. The combination certainly worked to good effect on Tuesday night. "We can take a lot of positives out of this game," said Katanec. "The first is the victory, although I wasn't much interested on the result before the game. This result will make the players feel good and give them a lot of confidence.
"We had a good first half where we enjoyed a lot of possession, played as we should in an organised manner and scored two goals. The second half wasn't as good as the first half and then we made all the changes to give everyone a feeler of the game. But I am satisfied with the overall performance. "It was a pretty good start to our first game in nearly four months. We had only three days to prepare and not in the best weather conditions. The weather was fairly OK during the game but it was hot and sticky two days ago.
"We trained only for 15 minutes and the players had their shoes filled with water. But we were prepared to play in any weather condition. It is same for both teams. If the weather had been what it was two days ago, then we would have still adapted to play in those energy-sapping conditions. "Last year we had our first friendly in October, and starting a month ahead this time was another positive step forwards. We now have a team better prepared than last year. It won't be easy for any side to beat us."
Katanec refused to dwell on the individual performances of his players. But Khalil, the Al Ahli striker, and Amer Abdulrahman, the midfielder from Baniyas, combined well for the opening goal. "There are a few players in the squad I am already impressed with, but I don't want to talk about them right now," Katanec said. "I will be happy when I have a balanced and cohesive unit ready at the time of going for the competitions. My focus was only on my own players, and not Kuwait. I wanted my players to concentrate on their own game and not go in with any plan of how they were going to play.
"They adapted well and played their own game according to the situation." Goran Tufegdzic, Kuwait's Serbian coach, was gracious in defeat and admitted Kuwait were outplayed. "We didn't have a good game," he said. "Losing 3-0 wasn't what we expected. I think the players were a bit tired as we had only three days before travelling to Abu Dhabi for this game. "We also had some injuries and five of the players couldn't make it. But having said this, I don't want to take anything away from UAE's win. They were the better team and deserved to win.
"We need to go back and start working on the areas which exposed our weaknesses in this game."