January 13 – United Arab Emirates coach Alberto Zaccheroni (pictured) is focused on claiming top spot in Group A as the Asian Cup hosts aim to secure their place in the last 16 when they face Thailand in their final group game on Monday.
The hosts got off to shaky start against Bahrain in the tournament’s curtain raiser, but defeated India 2-0 to get their campaign back on track. They need just a point from their encounter with the Thais to secure a spot among the continent’s last 16 teams.
The Italian coach had been under severe pressure after the insipid draw with Bahrain, but he believes that the UAE’s 2-0 win over India points at the development of his team.
“First of all, we are so happy that we won the last match and nearly qualified the UAE team to the last 16,” said Zaccheroni. “But our focus will be high on achieving the top spot and qualifying without looking or considering the result of the other match. The development of our performance is slow, but our ambition is to play well and show our best performance. Our progress is gradual.
“After this stage we will play against stronger teams in a knockout stage, but, for me, the players are fully ready. In terms of performance, the team is progressing. And I hope the performance will progress further and in the coming match you’ll see something else.”
Thailand dismissed their coach Milovan Rajevac after a humiliating 4-1 defeat to India in their opening fixture. Interim boss Sirisak Yodyardthai had an immediate impact, oversaeeing a 1-0 win over Bahrain in his first match in charge. That result threw Group A wide open with all teams still in with a chance of progressing going into the last round of group games.
“We are playing against a very developed national team with a different style of play, who is competing to win qualification to the last 16,” said Zaccheroni. “For me, the match won’t be easy. We need to perform at our best level, better than our previous matches.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1708936403labto1708936403ofdlr1708936403owedi1708936403sni@o1708936403fni1708936403