AFC Asian Cup 2019, Team Preview: United Arab Emirates
The hosts of the 2019 AFC Asia Cup selected a strong squad for the tournament featuring four debutants. Al Jazira's Khalifa Al Hammadi represents the youngest member of the squad at 20. Seven members of the squad play for Al Ain football club, which is the most successful team in Emirates claiming 32 titles so far.
They left out their talismanic midfielder Omar Abdulrahman after he suffered a tear of his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee following a collision with Romanian defender Valerica Gaman during Al Hilal’s league match against Al Shabab in October this year.
The United Arab Emirates finished in third place after getting past Iraq 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the Newcastle Stadium after being awarded a penalty in the 57th minute, which proved to be the decider.
After thumping Qatar in their initial game and getting past Bahrain, they suffered a solitary goal loss at the hands of Iran. They registered a 5-4 victory on penalties against Japan before being knocked out by Australia in the semis.
Ali Mabkhout won the Golden Boot award, being the top-scorer with five goals in the tournament, which also clinched him a place in the team of the tournament along with Omar Abdulrahman.
The United Arab Emirates have taken part in nine Asian Cups so far. Their best performance came in 1996 at home when they finished runners-up, losing to Saudi Arabia. They made their debut in Kuwait 1980 and so far have played 36 matches, recording a 33% win percentage with 12 victories, eight draws, and sixteen defeats.
Emirates have won only two of their eleven Internationals this year to record a winning percentage of 18%. Their only glowing spot has been their draw against 59th ranked Bolivia in Dubai last month.
Their defeats to Laos, Gabon and Trinidad, and Tobago have raised questions regarding the team, which were answered after their convincing performances over Bolivia and Yemen in November this year.
Al-Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout is a key player for the hosts if they are looking to advance to the last four stages of the Asian Cup. He holds the distinction of scoring the fastest goal scored in 14 seconds during the previous edition in 2015 against Bahrain. With his breath-taking speed and physical capability, he will pose a challenge to the defenders in containing him.
Emirates Captain Ismail Matar carries the hopes of the entire nation, and will look to marshal his troops to an elusive cup win. With 125 International caps to his credit, he has scored 36 goals for Emirates.
Saturday, 05 January 2019: United Arab Emirates (79) vs Bahrain (113) - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 21:30 IST.
Thursday, 10 January 2019: United Arab Emirates (79) vs India (97) - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 21:30 IST.
Monday, 14 January 2019: United Arab Emirates (79) vs Thailand (118) - Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 21:30 IST.
The Whites will be in for a stiff battle against a rejuvenated Indian team who held them a 2-2 draw in 2011 during their previous encounter. They kick-start their campaign against rivals Bahrain, which could decide the table-toppers of group A.
They should also expect their match against Thailand to be a close affair after their drawn encounter last year in Bangkok.
Average Age: 28 years.
International Caps: 774
International Goals: 154
Head Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni (Italy).
Goalkeepers: Khalid Essa (Al Ain), , Ali Khaseif (Al Jazira), Mohamed Al Shamsi (Al Wahda).
Defenders: Mohamed Ahmed (Al Ain), Ismail Ahmed (Al Ain), Khalifa Al Hammadi (Al Jazira), Fares Juma (Al Jazira), Khalifa Mubarak (Al Nasr), Mahmoud Khamis (Al Nasr), Walid Abbas (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club).
Midfielders: Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain), Amer Abdulrahman (Al Ain), Rayan Yaslam (Al Ain), Mohamed Abdulrahman (Al Ain), Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira), Majed Hassan (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club), Ismail Al Hammadi (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club), Ali Salmeen (Al Wasl), Khamis Esmail (Al Wasl).
Strikers: Saif Rashid (Sharjah), Ismail Matar (Al Wahda) (Captain), Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira), Ahmed Khalil (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club).