With the UAE set to take on Oman in the Gulf Cup final on Friday, here is all you need to know about the two finalists; from their record in the competition, recent form, tactical approach and the contest in the dugout.
A SHARED HISTORY OF SUCCESS
Oman and the UAE have been key figures in the Gulf Cup’s recent history. Since 2004, between them they have earned a combined five final appearances – with three overall successes notched. Oman experienced a cherished period from 2004-09, losing the opening two deciders – the second in 2007 to an Ismail Matar-inspired UAE – before defender Mohammed Rabia struck the winning penalty in the shootout nine years ago to stun Saudi Arabia. The UAE also roared to success in 2013 in Bahrain before finishing third in Saudi a year later.
LOOKING TO RECOVER FROM SORRY ROAD TO RUSSIA
Neither nation will look back on their painful path to World Cup 2018 with any joy. For the UAE, the
‘Golden Generation’ lost their glean during a fitful attempt to make next summer’s tournament which
ended in the third and final round. A managerial merry-go-round in the aftermath sees Italian veteran Alberto Zaccheroni rebuilding ahead of January 2019’s Asian Cup. Oman dropped out in the second round, with Pim Verbeek the latest coach at the helm. Under him, they have reached the Asian event from an admittedly weak qualifying group.
BUILDING FROM THE BACK IS WAY FORWARD
The one thing we should not expect from tomorrow’s final is a flood of goals. In a tournament lacking any huge
scorelines, both have built from the back to make it this far. The UAE have netted just once, while Oman have recorded three 1-0 victories. For the latter-mentioned, the likes of Al Suwaiq centre-back Mohammed Al Musalami and Al Mesaimeer veteran Ahmed Kano are key. The Whites will hope a safety-first 3-4-3 formation will provide celebrated attackers such as Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout one last chance to excel.
KUWAIT CITY’S BATTLE OF THE VETERANS
Experience will abound in Kuwait City’s Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium when Oman and the
UAE clash. For the Whites, Italian Alberto Zaccheroni has instilled senses of organisation and tactical identity since his mid-October arrival. This is no surprise, considering the 64-year-old won the 1998/99 Serie A crown with AC Milan and 2011 Asian Cup with Japan. Opposite number Pim Verbeek’s irascible nature led to a fractious spell in charge of Australia – ending at the 2010 World Cup. The 61-year-old also has few friends in Oman, but has improved their fortunes.
Alberto Zaccheroni‘s side had the opportunity to book their place in the semi-finals but failed to break through the defence of a second-string Saudi outfit in Kuwait City.
Ismail Ahmed was replaced by Fares Juma at the back, but other than that UAE retained the same line up that started the 1-0 win over Oman on Friday.
At the other end, Mukhtar Fallatah’s attempted lob had to be tipped over the bar by Khalid Essa.
Both sides remain level on points at the top of Group A.
UAE will take on hosts Kuwait in the final group encounter while Saudi face Oman.
Head coach Alberto Zaccheroni was happy that the UAE opened their Gulf Cup campaign on a winning note but insists there’s still a lot of work to do if they want to go all the way in the competition.
Ali Mabkhout’s first-half penalty was the only goal of the match as the Whites defeated Oman 1-0 at Kuwait’s Jaber International Stadium on Friday night.
It was Zaccheroni’s fourth match in charge since taking over in October after the 1-0 defeat to Haiti on his debut and a reverse scoreline against Uzbekistan. And while the former AC Milan, Juventus and Japan boss was satisfied with what he saw, he admits there are still areas he needs to work on ahead of the match against Saudi Arabia on Monday.
“Omani performed very well in the first 15 minutes of the match,” he said of the game in which Omar Abdulrahman was awarded man of the match.
“But we improved after that and after we scored the first goal, there was two more chances to score goals. “In the second half, we had a good start but then Oman improved and although they did their best to try and get the equaliser, we held on to win the game.
“It was very important to win the first match and there were positive signs to take from the match but my coaching team will have to work on correcting the mistakes.”
Having been in the hot seat for less than two months, the 64-yearold acknowledges it will take time for his players to adapt but reiterated the on-going tournament forms an important part of the team’s preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.
“The first match of the championship is always quiet hard and it’s about planning for the players to understand step by step and understanding the coaches tactics,” he said after the match.
“This Gulf Cup is very important for us ahead of the Asian Cup. The most important thing is that the players continue preparing in all matches and training with an eye on the Asian Cup, which is our goal.”
The UAE’s next task is against Saudi Arabia, who despite fielding a second-string team, overcame hosts Kuwait 2-1 earlier on Friday evening.
Al Ain defender Mohaned Salem played the full 90 minutes in the opening victory and says picking up maximum points will give them a lot of confidence going into the Saudi clash.
Despite their rivals not being at their full strength, the 32-year-old is adamant his side will not take them lightly.
“Frankly, we have had a very good performance and proved to the coach that we are up to it,” he said ahead of the clash at Jaber International Stadium.
“The Saudi team is very strong and big but we will focus on our team’s performance and the ability to win some points will motivate us for the next match.”