Come Friday, the members of the UAE U19 team will get a taste of royalty. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has offered one of his private jets to fly the team in from Saudi Arabia after the AFC Under 19 Championship final against Uzbekistan. That gesture should act as an added incentive for the young lads to conquer the Uzbeks and become champions of Asia. The UAE have won all their five matches on the way to the final. They beat South Korea (2-1), Iraq (2-1) and Syria (2-0) in the group stages; knocked out hosts Saudi Arabia (1-0) in the quarter-finals and drubbed Australia 3-0 in the semis. One last hurdle remains, and Yousuf Abdullah, the general secretary of the UAE Football Association, is confident Mahdi Ali's boys will return home with the continental crown.
"Our confidence is high now after the comprehensive win over Australia," he said. "Inshallah, we will return with the cup on Friday. "We have plans for a big party and we thank Sheikh Mohammed, who has provided us with one of his private plane to fly in the team after the final." Goals from Ahmed Khalil and Rashed Essa in the first 12 minutes put UAE in control against the Australians and Abdulaziz Hussain added a third five minutes from time. "We sealed the game right from the beginning by scoring two quick goals," said coach Mahdi Ali. "Those two goals raised the confidence of our side and deflated the Australians.
"We had a great game and I want to congratulate all of the players for a big performance. They showed strong fighting spirit which helped us to get the win. "We played against Uzbekistan in a friendly tournament and we have watched their matches in the competition. They have a good team, but both teams have good players, the best team will win." The Australian coach Jan Versleijen admitted his side were beaten by a better team. "UAE deserved to win as they played a better game and they were sharper than us in the first 20 minutes," he said.