Ismail Rashid, the UAE team manager, has urged his players not to be too concerned after being paired with holders Oman in the Gulf Cup group stages. "We are in a tougher group but we really can't complain about the draw," said Rashid as he looked forward to the tournament in Yemen between November 22 and December 4 following yesterday's draw, which also pitted the national side against Bahrain and Iraq in the group stage. "We know who we play now and the players have to be prepared to face and win against them."
Oman won the competition on home turf last year, while Bahrain narrowly missed qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa when they were beaten by New Zealand in a play-off. Iraq are the defending Asian Cup winners. "The teams in our group are strong on paper, but they are not unbeatable," Rashid said. "And we are not a bad team either. We must be ready to face any team if we want to win the tournament.
"I don't think it would have been any easier had we been in the other group. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have always been strong, and Yemen, as the host, can be equally strong because the host teams have won the last three staging of this biennial championship." The UAE's preparation will begin with a friendly with Kuwait on September 7. Rashid added: "We are also planning a friendly game against Angola, for which a date is yet to be decided, and against Chile, which we are still awaiting confirmation."