An appropriate time to analyse why the UAE Under-23s required a back door to make the 2018 Asian Games’ knockouts is to come.
Now, coach Maciej Skorza must take stock and see what awaits his side after they sneaked through as one of the best third-placed sides in Indonesia. The full line-up will be decided on Monday.
An improved display against rampant China when Group C wound to a close still delivered a second loss from three matches. But at least this one didn’t come with the caveat of a definite end.
Skorza’s predecessors oversaw failures to make the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2018 AFC U-23 Championship.
But whether the Pole can even repeat 2014’s run to the Asian Games’ quarter-finals may require a gentle draw.
The UAE’s latest reversal in the current edition was delivered in remarkable fashion.
Shandong Luneng midfielder Yao Junsheng looked up from near the halfway line on 71 minutes and powerfully lobbed goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi to seal a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory.
A look of astonishment crept across the Wahda man’s face. In reality, he’s now culpable for both reversals at Jalak Harupat Stadium – flimsy fingertips helped Syria to an opening 1-0 triumph last Tuesday.
The Junior Whites had gained a deserved lead on Sunday through Fujairah winger Mohammed Khalfan’s snapped low finish against qualified opponents, who came in with a goal difference of +9. All well and good.
Sharjah’s Majed Surour and Al Jazira’s Mohamed Al Attas at that stage were winning the midfield battle. On the flank, Khalfan was a threat in behind.
The prospect of a first eliminations in the pools since 2006 seemed reassuringly distant.
This warm feeling would be vanquished close to half-time. Beijing Guoan left winger Wei Shihao would cut inside onto his favoured right boot and arrow a powerful effort past the helpless Al Shamsi.
Even better was to come through Junsheng.
Encouragement in defeat, then. But defeat, all the same.
UAE coach Maciej Skorza has urged his troops to double their “work, effort and focus” in Sunday’s pressurised decider against rampant China as they attempt to avoid a first group-stage elimination at the Asian Games for 12 years.
The Under-23 team suffered a listless 1-0 opening loss to Syria in Group C, but rebounded with a 4-1 thrashing of minnows Timor-Leste. They now require a result at Indonesia’s Jalak Harupat Stadium against qualified opponents who’ve scored nine goals and conceded none in both victories.
With Syria playing helpless Timor at the same time, a spot as one of the four-best third-placed finishers is likely to be required by the UAE. They come into the final round of pool games with the second-best record among this number, with three points and a goal difference of +2.
“We will have to double our work, effort and focus throughout the game and not rush,” said coach Skorza. “The challenge is still in our hands and we will fight to achieve that.
“The players are well aware of what needs to be done.
“Despite the lack of time to rest and take breath, the technical and administrative staff have been working on the players in all aspects – technical, physical and psychological.”
Al Jazira forward Zayed Al Ameri struck twice in Thursday’s victory. Ittihad Kalba loanee Shaheen Surour and Al Wahda centre-back Salem Sultan also got among the goals.
This result has given the UAE a chance of making the round of 16 that Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club-bound forward Ahmed Al Attas does not intend to pass up.
Best of luck to our national Olympic football team 🇦🇪 in their match tomorrow against China 🇨🇳 at the Asia games 2018 ,, pic.twitter.com/PHtAvOLpvq— UAEFA (@uaefa_ae) August 18, 2018
He said: “All the team have agreed to give everything to achieve the positive result that will ensure we qualify.
“The task will not be easy, especially as China have shown a remarkable level and were able to harvest all six points.
“But the UAE players are able to overcome them because of our solidarity, fighting spirit and good discipline.
“All the players are keen to gain one of the qualifying cards and charge into the round of 16.”
The coming of a ‘Golden Generation’ was heralded by the UAE’s charge to silver in 2010. The nation then made the quarter-finals four years later.
Al Nasr are set to secure their third Brazilian signing of the summer after they reportedly agreed a season’s loan for Corinthians attacking midfielder Marquinhos Gabriel.
The Blue Wave have been busy in recent months modelling a foreign quartet to gain Arabian Gulf League glory. In addition to the eye-catching capture of France and Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye, they’ve also procured forward Samuel Rosa from relegated Hatta and striker Iury from Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk.
ESPN Brasil have reported that 28-year-old Gabriel will soon be added to this list. A temporary switch, with a $4 million permanent option, has been agreed and the attacker has been granted permission to travel to Dubai for a medical.
This will be his second experience in the Middle East after a mixed spell at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr from 2014-16. In 2018, Gabriel has scored once in 21 matches for his current employers.
Last term’s fourth-placed finishers in the UAE have also made significant domestic moves.
UAE internationals Habib Fardan – who represented the Blue Wave with distinction from 2008-14 – and Mohammed Marzooq have arrived from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
Further deals have been agreed for Al Jazira centre-back Mohammed Ali Ayed, Emirates Club midfielder Al Hussain Saleh and promising Al Wahda forward Mohamed Al Akbari.
Meanwhile, promoted Ittihad Kalba have gambled on the fitness of Nigeria’s box-to-box midfielder Raheem Lawal to complete their non-Emirati contingent.
Lawal, 28, suffered regular fitness problems when Osmanlispor were relegated from Turkey’s Super Lig in 2017/18.
Rijeka midfielder Florentin Matei, Tigres UANL anchorman Alan Santos and Puskas Academia striker Antonio Perosevic have all been previously drafted in by the yo-yo outfit.