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UAE set sights on final berth
By a staff Reporter January 02, 2018
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Kuwait City: A rejuvenated UAE will look to confirm their berth into the final of the Gulf Cup of Nations with victory over Iraq on Tuesday.

UAE, who finished runners-up in the their group behind Oman, will face the stern test against the winners of the Group B Iraq in semi-finals at Kuwait City.

Both sides are unbeaten going into the encounter at the Jaber International Stadium, which kicks off at 10pm UAE time.

With the regional powerhouse and 2018 Russia World Cup finalist Saudi Arabia already bundled out of the tournament, UAE can fancy their chances of laying down their hand on the prestigious trophy for the third time.

UAE have won the tournament twice in 2007 and 2013 while Oman won it once in 2009. Bahrain and Yemen are the only gulf nations to have never won the tournament.

UAE are unbeaten in the tourney so far following a win over Oman in the opener and two goalless draws against Saudia Arabia and Kuwait in the group stage matches.

UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni will not wish to settle for any thing less than a final berth after a stupendous start to the tournament. Zaccheroni has breathed a new life into the UAE team since the Argentine took over.

It is his first international tournament in charge of the UAE national team following the stepping down of former coach Mahdi Ali.

Ali relinquished his post after the Whites failed to qualify for the World Cup despite coming agonizingly close.

UAE will once again pin hopes on Al Jazira’s striker Ali Mabkhout and Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrehman to lead their charge. Mabkhout scored the lone goal of the opening match against Oman to fetch UAE the first win of the tournament. Omar is yet to prove his mettle in the tournamnet.

Mabkhout also played a crucial role in Al Jazira’s run-up to the semi-finals of the recently concluded Club World Cup.

Though Zaccheroni’s top priority remains the 2019 Asia Cup on home soil, as he had made his intent clear, saying: “The Gulf Cup is an opportunity to try and build a strong team for the Asian Cup.”

However, the coach will look to ease the pain of missing out on a 2018 Russia World Cup finalists berth by emerging regional champions and giving some reason to the fans to cheer for.

But one area that remains a concern for Zaccheroni is lack of goals. The UAE have scored only one goal in three matches so far though they have managed to keep a clean slate. Whereas their opponents Iraq are coming into the semis on the back of a 3-0 victory against Yemen.

The other semi-final will be played between Bahrain and Oman. Bahrain booked the semis berth after their 1-1 draw with Qatar. The result was enough for them to edge their opponents out in the fight for second place in the group.

They now take on Oman, the winners of Group A, and that match is at 6.30pm. The final is on Friday at 9pm at the Jaber International Stadium.

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