UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni insists his side have found a formula to break down stubborn defences – and he’s eager to put it to the test against Kyrgyzstan.
The Whites safely navigated the Asian Cup’s first round by finishing top of Group A, but struggled to put – on paper – inferior teams to bed.
Draws with Bahrain and Thailand sandwiched victory over India but, despite taking 33 shots over the three games, the tournament hosts only found the net four times.
Kyrgyzstan conceded just four times themselves in a strong Group C containing South Korea and China, but Zaccheroni is confident his team will be slicker in their round-of-16 clash on Monday.
“In each match, we dominated but the teams we faced played very defensively,” the former AC Milan boss told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “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.
“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.”
Kyrgyzstan have every reason to feel confident of progressing further in their first appearance at an Asian Cup.
Vitalij Lux, who plies his trade in the German fourth tier with SSV Ulm, scored a hat-trick in a must-win final group game that dumped out Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines.
What a performance from Kyrgyzstan’s Vitalij Lux, a pair of sumptuous instinctive strikes for his first and second, and a real poacher’s follow-up to complete his hat-trick after Mirlan Murzaev’s shot rebounded off the post. #KGZvPHI #AsianCup2019— James Walsh (@Jarvybigtweets) January 16, 2019
And head coach Alexsandr Krestinin has no intention of stopping there.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
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