UAE Under-23 make China pay for missed chances

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UAE’s Waleed Ambar (l) beats his man in Dubai.

The UAE Under-23s began the year on a winning note but had to work for their 2-0 victory over China in their practice match on Friday night.

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Second-half strikes from Sharjah’s Yousif Saeed and Jazira’s Ahmed Al-Attas sealed their team’s second straight win as they continue their preparations for the AFC Championship later this month.

Plenty is at stake for the 27 players as coach Dr Abulla Misfer looks to name his final squad for that event which sees the top three advancing to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. At Dubai Police Officers Club, the hosts did not have the best of starts with China beginning brightly.

The visiting outfit were nearly ahead after just 10 minutes but 18-year-old Zhang Yuning’s headed effort went straight at goalkeeper Mohamed Saeed, who palmed the ball away. That attack gave the Chinese more confidence and a few minutes later, Wu Xinghan wasted another opportunity in front of goal as his header went over the bar.

Misfer, clearly concerned by his team’s start, was at the dugout, barking orders at his players. Whatever he said seemed to do the trick as the UAE began to string some passes together but failed to create clear-cut chances.

China had the ball in the net through Yuning but it was chalked off by referee Omar Mohamed for offside. The momentum was with the East Asian side and Vitesse’s Yuning continued to be a threat to the UAE defence. His latest effort saw him dribble the ball past two defenders before seeing his shot go wide of keeper Saeed’s far post.

Just before half-time, the UAE registered their first attempt on target. After a dazzling run, Khalfan Mubarak won a free-kick and Ahmed Barman unleashed a 25-yard shot, presenting an easy save for China goalkeeper Du Jia.

With the scores level at half-time, both sides made a number of substitutions. A minute after the restart, the UAE pushed forward and were rewarded when Mohamed Salman was tripped in the penalty box. Saeed made no mistake from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

That goal saw a response from China, who upped their tempo in the second period. Substitutes Li Yuanyi and Liu Binbin were difficult to handle for the UAE defence. But it was Yuning who was the biggest threat. His smart low flick went past the post, while Binbin’s skills and pace caused big problems on the right hand side.

But despite their possession, China could not find the equaliser. And they were made to pay with less than 20 minutes to go as Saeed Musabbeh’s cross was converted by Al-Attas to double the UAE’s lead. 

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UAE starlet Kazim dreams of Rio 2016

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Ambitious: Abdulla Kazim.

UAE Under-23 winger Abdulla Kazim has vowed to give his all to ensure he achieves a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and plays at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Kazim, 19, is part of the 27-man preliminary squad selected to compete in next month’s decisive qualifying tournament in Qatar.

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Only a top-three finish at the 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship will see the current generation secure a second-successive entry to the Games. The Al Wasl regular opened the scoring in last Wednesday’s 3-0 warm-up match victory against North Korea and he wants to carry his momentum all the way forward to next summer’s gala event.

He said: “It is an inspiration for us to win the first match. It helps us to think about other wins before we enter the tournament, full of confidence. It is a dream for every player to play in the Olympics. It comes only once in your lifetime.

“We will try our best to reach our goals. I think we will try our hardest and as much as we can. We cannot lose this dream – we will try our best to reach it.”

Current senior stars such as Al Ain playmaker Omar Abdulrhman and Al Jazira hot shot Ali Mabkhout first wowed a global audience at London 2012. Along with coach Mahdi Ali, that group went on to win the 2013 Gulf Cup and finish third at last January’s Asian Cup.

“It motivates us to try to play there,” Kazim said of their achievements. “They played in the Olympics and we should do the same or even better. They played last time and didn’t qualify (from the group stage). We try to qualify and get even better results.

“It inspires everyone to see the first-team coach (Ali) was here to watch us play North Korea. But for me, I only think about what I have to do on the field. Now we are focusing more on what is happening here. We have an important tournament ahead.”

Dr Abdulla Misfer has been tasked with guiding the U-23s at the Championship from January 12-30. The former Al Dhafra supremo boasts a wealth of experience, which Kazim is happy to tap into.

He said: “Dr Misfer inspires us on the field and gives us confidence to do whatever we want. “When you go inside the field with confidence for yourself and from the coach, you play well.”

The team regrouped for their second training camp last Sunday, ahead of further friendlies against China on Friday and South Korea on January 4. The final 23 players selected will then head to Doha, where they face a fearsome first Group D clash against Australia on January 14.

“We don’t care about who we play against,” said Kazim, about a pool which features further matches against Jordan on January 17 and Vietnam on January 20. “We have confidence in our skills and our players. If it is a big team or a small team, we focus for the match in the same way.”

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Al Wahda named 2019 Asian Cup host stadium

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The Al Nahyan Stadium.

Al Wahda have been given the honour of hosting 2019 Asian Cup matches after it was revealed on Tuesday their Al Nahyan Stadium had been added as a seventh venue.

The UAE are set to put on the continent’s premier competition for a second time after they beat Iran in March’s AFC Executive Committee vote.

An original list of six grounds in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai was proposed as part of the bid.

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This number has now been added to after a meeting for organisers on Sunday in Dubai decided to boost this number to provide extra options for the 24-team event.

“The executive committee of the 2019 Asian Cup held its second meeting on Sunday, at Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai,” Abu Dhabi Sports Council tweeted.

“On the agenda was the remarks and recommendations made by the AFC delegation who visited the stadia.

“The committee agreed to add Al Nahyan Stadium to the list and be the third stadium in Abu Dhabi, in addition to Zayed Sports City and Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

“The meeting also discussed the proposed venue to host training sessions for the 24 teams taking part in the championship.”

The Al Nahyan opened 20 years ago and currently boasts a capacity of 10,000. Development work to ensure it fits AFC specifications will boost this figure in time for the next Asian Cup.

Zayed Sports City – a regular host of UAE matches – and Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium have already been chosen from the capital.

Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium and Sheikh Khalifa Stadium are the representatives from the Garden City, while Dubai International Cricket Stadium and a new venue in the city to be built by 2018 complete the list.

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