Khalil eager to focus on the positives as Australia loom large
Abu Dhabi: Matchwinner Ahmed Khalil has declared that the United Arab Emirates should put aside Monday’s struggles against Kyrgyz Republic and focus on the positives after a 3-2 extra-time win sent the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 hosts through to the quarter-finals.
Khalil came off the bench to seal the win by converting a penalty in the 103rd minute of an absorbing encounter, the second time he has rescued his side following the 27-year-old’s successful spot-kick in the final moments of the UAE’s 1-1 draw with Bahrain on Matchday One.
The victory helped set up an intriguing quarter-final tie with Australia, with Khalil eager to reflect on the importance of the UAE’s hard-fought victory against tournament debutants Kyrgyz Republic.
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“It was a tough game, and we undoubtedly made it harder for ourselves,” he said.
“When you don’t capitalise on the chances you get, things become tough. Everyone knows we were in a difficult situation, but ultimately the win is the most important thing and I think we should look forward and think of what comes next.
“I am grateful that I was able to score the penalty to get a very important win for the Emirati people and for us as players. Hopefully we can continue [in the same way] and what comes next will be better.”
The UAE met Australia in the semi-finals of the competition’s last edition, a game which they lost 2-0 on a rainy night in New South Wales.
After seeing the Australians overcome Uzbekistan in their Round of 16 tie, Khalil, who played in the defeat four years ago, is expecting another major test for the UAE.
“After finishing each stage, things become harder,” he explained. “There are no easy teams in this tournament as they are all at a similar [high] level, especially when it comes to the knockout stage.
“We have to respect the Australian team, but without making a bigger deal of it than it actually is. They respect us as much as we respect them. We will be playing in front of our fans and I hope things will go well for us in the next game.”
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