UAE resilience spares Zaccheroni extra-time agony
Al Ain: Alberto Zaccheroni was relieved his United Arab Emirates side held on to eke out a 1-0 win over Australia in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Friday night, with the Italian fearing his team would have struggled had the game gone to extra-time.
The tournament hosts had Ali Mabkhout to thank that the game ended after 90 minutes, with the Al Jazira striker scoring the only goal of the game midway through the second half when he capitalised on Milos Degenek’s poor back pass to round Maty Ryan and roll the ball home.
Zaccheroni’s defence then held firm as the Socceroos threw everything forward in an attempt to keep the defence of the title they won on home soil four years ago alive, only for those attempts to flounder.
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“Australia were the champions in the last edition of this competition and they have a very strong team, and I don’t know how we would have done if we had had to play 120 minutes today,” said the Italian, who won the title with Japan in 2011. “I’m not sure we would have been able to do it.
“We’re a technical team and we’re professional in controlling the ball, but Australia is a very strong team who rely on aerial balls and during this game they relied heavily on that."
"Australia are also a very fit team and they’re very well organised, they keep the ball well and are a strong team that always shows the initiative to launch attacks. They’re one of the best teams in Asia.
“But this is a great motivation for our players, a great victory and it showed the strength of the UAE national team.”
The UAE now face Qatar in the semi-finals on Tuesday, with the nation hopeful of securing a place in the final for only the second time in their history.
The Italian praised the influence of the home fans, who turned out in force to back their team, who are seeking to surpass the result the country secured when the tournament was last played in the UAE in 1996. Then the Emirates reached the final, only to lose to Saudi Arabia in the decider.
“I am a practical coach and I’m always ready for any critique,” said Zaccheroni. “My work is to look for and find a stable way of playing and my role as coach is to make the most of the elements I have in the right way and play a balanced style in defence and in attack.
“We had to play collectively today. The most important thing is that the players have confidence in the coach and they understand my way of playing. They are genuine players and they showed their quality throughout the 90 minutes.
“The whole team wanted to win tonight and thanks to the fans who stood behind us the whole time. We are so happy that we made them happy tonight.”
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