UAE aim to set record straight against Oman
Mohammed Ali Gharib says the UAE's Under 23 side expect to redeem themselves against Oman in the final of the Gulf Cup tonight in Doha.
The UAE lost to Oman 3-2 in their opening match before bouncing back with a 5-1 thrashing of Bahrain in the group stage and a 2-0 semi-final win over Qatar on Friday to book their place in the final.
"This is a team with big ambitions," said Gharib, who scored the opening goal in the UAE's win over Qatar. "We are the defending champions of this Gulf Cup and with objectives of playing in next year's London Olympics.
"We want to win this final to underline our status as the best team in the competition."
The 22-year-old Al Shabab defender blamed defensive errors for his team's loss to Oman, but said it made them stronger for the remainder of the competition.
"We made a few mistakes at the back and lost to Oman," he said. "Since then we have worked on those areas, and this has resulted in winning the next two games very convincingly. We now want to put the team's excellent record straight by winning this final.
"It was better that defeat came so early in the competition. It really gave us a wake-up call. Now we are going into the final knowing the opposition well and more importantly with our confidence very high."
Gharib put the UAE ahead against Qatar with a looping header just after the hour. Substitute Ahmed Ali broke the offside trap and rounded the keeper to double the lead 10 minutes later.
"My main job is to hold the defence together but I also go forward for the set pieces as one of the taller players," Gharib said.
"I always look to score when I go up and sometimes get lucky. Obviously I want to score more but more important is to see my team win."
Mohammed Jamal, the UAE midfielder, believes the team is in top form, and retaining the regional crown is within their reach.
"The team is in tip-top condition, both mentally and physically," Jamal said. "Even the opposition will know it was one of their good days when they beat us. We will be different and we want to avenge that defeat."
Coach Mahdi Ali is likely to start with the same line-up with Ahmed Mahmoud in goal, and Gharib, Saad Suroor, Abdulaziz Sankor and Abdulaziz Haikal in the defence. Mohammed Fawzi, Habib Fardan, Rashid Essa and Haboush Saleh are set to pull the strings in the midfield with Ali Mabkhout and Mohammed Abdulrahman spearheading the attack.
Ali, who has been with the team for the past eight years, made a double substitution on the hour against Qatar, and it paid dividends as the UAE scored almost immediately. It has been a ploy that has worked well for him in the last two games and even against Oman in the first match.
Ali also displayed the depth of his side, despite missing several key players who were drafted in to the senior national team for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Mohammed Obaid Hammad, the team administrator, said the absence of some key players has provided the opportunity for new talent to be unearthed.
"This championship has allowed us to discover talent," he said. "I think we have already achieved our goals in reaching the final." Gharib was among eight players from the U23 team who were selected yesterday for the senior national team ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Kuwait on September 2.
Also selected by Srecko Katanec, the senior national team coach, were Hamdan Al Kamali, Ahmed Khalil, Theyab Awana, Omer Abdulrahman, Adel Al Hosani, Mohammed Abdulrahman and Mohammed Fawzi.
Katanec assembled most of his players in Al Ain yesterday to prepare for a friendly against Qatar at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed stadium on August 25.
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Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM