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Gritty UAE hold favourites S.Arabia
By A Staff Reporter December 26, 2017
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Kuwait City: The UAE put up a gritty display of courage to hold mighty Saudi Arabia to a goalless draw in a Gulf Cup of Nations Group A match on Monday.

After having played two matches, the UAE remain unbeaten in the tournament following their victory in their opening match against Oman.

Both UAE and Saudi Arabia attacked each other but failed to penetrate their opposition’s tight defences.

The UAE are playing without their first-choice goalkeeper Ali Khaseif, who -- playing for Al Jazira -- stood like a wall against the rampaging ‘Los Blancos’ in the recently concluded Club World Cup. Khaseif was not picked following an injury he sustained during that game and was replaced by Al Wasl’s Sultan Al Manthari.

Manthari though seems to be fitting in his predecessor’s shoes well as he made a few good saves to help the UAE keep a clean slate in their second consecutive game. The UAE had beaten Oman 1-0.

After winning their respective opening matches, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia were looking to extend their winning streak. However, after their draw, both teams are occupying the top two places in their group, with the Saudis sitting on top with four points from two games while the UAE are in second spot by virtue of the Saudis’ superior goal difference.

The UAE squad is a blend of youth as well as experience, with a few of them who fought so valiantly against champions Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup, making the squad.

UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s had said before the match that they would use the tournament as a tune-up for the Asian Cup to be held in the home country in 2018.

Saudi Arabia, who have qualified for the 2018 Russia World Cup, have sent a second string squad with the showpiece event in mind.

The competition is contested by the eight members of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation namely: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. The teams are divided into two groups of four. Group A consists of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman while Group B includes Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq.

Teams play one another within their group once for a total of three group stage matches per team.

The two teams that top their respective groups qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played on Jan.2. The tournament concludes with the Final on Jan.5, 2018.

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