Preview - Round of 16: UAE v Kyrgyz Republic
Abu Dhabi: United Arab Emirates are confident of advancing to the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 but debutants Kyrgyz Republic have promised them a surprise at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Monday.
Hosts UAE are hoping to better their 1996 achievement - when they finished runners-up on home soil - by winning the Continental showpiece but Kyrgyz Republic are from satisfied despite having already achieved their initial target of making the knockout stage.
UAE head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, however, believes the hunger and focus he has seen in his squad since they finished top of Group A will result in success against Kyrgyz Republic, who advanced from Group C as one of the four best third-placed teams.
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"I have noticed that there is so much focus and willpower from the players, especially after we qualified for the last 16. The players are in harmony and this gives me much confidence," said Zaccheroni, who steered Japan to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup title.
Zaccheroni said UAE are fully aware of what the knockout stage means.
"It is a final in every game and there is no room for mistakes. We will not be able to compensate if we slip up and the players are fully aware."
UAE progressed to the Round of 16 with a record of one win and two draws but Zaccheroni said the results were not a fair reflection of his team's capabilities.
"In each match, we dominated but the teams we faced played very defensively. In saying that, we have identified what we need to do to counter this style of play.
"We identified that we need to be faster in our attacks and we have been working on this aspect since we sealed knockout stage qualification."
As to pressure on him and the UAE to win the title, Zaccheroni said: "When I signed on for this job, it was with the intention of winning the title. I come from the Italian league where pressure is normal. We will be able to handle expectations."
UAE, added the Italian coach, will face Kyrgyz Republic having done their homework.
"We have analysed their matches and I must say Kyrgyz Republic have improved so much. They have players who are playing in Europe and they will be a challenge. However, I am lucky to have a group of players who are focused on their job."
Kyrgyz Republic head Alexander Krestinin said his team are determined to prolong their debut appearance in the AFC Asian Cup and have been working on surprising UAE.
"To say that we are satisfied after reaching the knockout stage is inaccurate. When we started here, what I said was that the first task was to advance past the group stage.
"We have done that and now, we have to work on completing the second task, which is to advance to the quarter-finals. We have been working in training and we have a plan to surprise UAE," said Krestinin.
Kyrgyz Republic's achievements have been celebrated back home and Krestinin said the team is determined to give the fans more joy.
"UAE are a strong team but I believe we can achieve another first by advancing to the quarter-finals."
Round of 16
UAE v Kyrgyz Republic
Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi
21:00 (Local time)
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