The National's Sport cover for the Sunday, January 11 issue, featuring the UAE national football team preparing to play their first match of the 2015 Asian Cup against Qatar this morning.
Previewing the match, Ali Khaled writes:
“For Mahdi Ali and his group of players, the time has come to deliver on a long-held promise.
“Since taking over as the UAE coach in late 2012, he has consistently maintained that a place in the last four in the Asian Cup is his medium-term target, with qualifying for the 2018 World Cup his long-term aim.
“His team, preparing to meet Qatar in their first Asian Cup group game, have rarely let him down. The short-term goal of Gulf Cup of Nations success was met with a title triumph in 2013.
“Indeed, it is a measure of how far the UAE have progressed under Mahdi Ali that the 3-2 semi-final defeat to hosts Saudi Arabia in last year’s Gulf Cup is now seen as a disappointment, whereas a decade ago running their rivals so close would have been viewed as an achievement.
“The stakes are even higher now.”
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