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U-23 Chief wants more from UAE in the final rounds UAE youngsters have task cut out.

officials put onus on U-23 squad to prove mettle in gulf cup semi-final against Qatar

Dubai Rashid Al Za'abi, who is heading the UAE delegation at the Under-23 Gulf Cup in Qatar, has called for more from the players ahead of their semi-final clash with the hosts tomorrow.

"Everyone is saying we are better than Qatar and that we can beat them. But that's not enough. We have to show something more against this side. It will be very hard to pass this semi-final stage," Al Za'abi said.

The UAE made it to the semi-finals as leaders of Group B with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia on July 28 and a 1-1 draw with Kuwait on Sunday night. Both of the UAE's goals have come from the 2008 Asian Youth player of the year, Ahmad Khalil.

UAE FA general secretary Yousuf Abdullah agreed the hosts could not be taken lightly. "Qatar is not playing very well. In their two group games they didn't score.They lost 2-0 against Oman and drew 0-0 with Bahrain [winning 6-5 on penalties]. They don't have a strong frontline but that doesn't mean we can guarantee our place in the final."

Likewise, both officials said Oman's trailblazing form in the competition so far wouldn't necessarily result in the team making the final as everyone expects.

Crazy game

"Oman is not bad, they took six points from their group and face Kuwait in the semi, but Kuwait had close games with Saudi and the UAE. Football is crazy anything can happen," Abdullah said.

Al Za'abi added: "Kuwait is not easy. They played well against us and will prove difficult for Oman. It will be a very close match."

Claude le Roy, the head coach of Oman, admitted as much. "To go to the final, first we must win the semi. We can't talk about the final before that. It won't be easy, Kuwait have some good strikers. Likewise the other contenders for the final -- UAE and Qatar -- are both very strong with skillful players."

One to beat

The UAE's youth team are one of the favourites heading into the tournament having won the Under-19 Asian Championship in 2008 and having reached the quarters of the 2009 Under-20 World Cup. However Oman, winners of the last senior Gulf Cup, remain the team to beat with nine of their U-23 squad also in the senior side.

That's something Le Roy attributes to Oman's success at the U-23 tournament so far. "A lot of the young players are in the national team and they will come to camp in Kazakhstan with me and the seniors after the tournament in Qatar. It shows the potential of our youth and gives them more exposure. This new generation of Omani football is very interesting."

The objective of the U-23 Gulf Cup is to prepare for the forthcoming 2012 Olympic qualifiers and the Asian Games in Guangdong, China from November 12-27. The UAE has never qualified for Olympic football.

However players drafted for the UAE seniors like Ahmad Khalil, Sultan Al Minhali, Amer Abdul Rahman, Yousuf Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Fayez, Theyab Awana and Ali Mabkhout will all be using the tournament as a platform to impress ahead of the senior Gulf Cup in Yemen from November 22 to December 4, which many consider the greater prize.

Group stage:

Qatar 0-2 Oman

Saudi Arabia 1-1 Kuwait

July 30

Bahrain 0-2 Oman

Saudi Arabia 0-1 UAE

August 1

Kuwait 1-1 UAE

Qatar 6-5 Bahrain

Semi-finals:

August 4

Oman -- Kuwait

UAE -- Qatar

Final:

August 7

RESULTS

Kuwait is not easy. They played well against us and will prove difficult for Oman. It will be a very close match."

Rashid Al Za'abi

Head of UAE delegation

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 3, 2010
Words:636
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