UAE No1 Khalid Essa has declared his stellar displays against Real Madrid and River Plate at the Club World Cup will ensure he is better than ever at the impending Asian Cup.
Essa, 29, saved decisive penalties in the shootout triumphs against New Zealand amateurs Team Wellington and the aforementioned Argentine heavyweights as Al Ain made history with a run to Saturday’s final.
This run of heroic performances has meant he should be in top form – beginning with Friday’s last friendly against Kuwait at a refurbished Al Maktoum Stadium – coming into January 5’s continental opener against Bahrain at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City.
“My brilliance in the Club World Cup, which saw Al Ain make the final, came thanks to the cooperation of all my colleagues and the support of the fans,” said Essa, who is part of a seven-strong contingent from the Boss who join up with Alberto Zaccheroni’s men on Tuesday at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.
“The tournament has strengthened my confidence and increased my international experience. Participating in the Club World Cup is a great opportunity that I tried to exploit and to do my best in.
“I stress that I came out with great technical benefits from this tournament, that I wish helps boost my participation with the national team.
“I am ready to represent my country in this important tournament. I will do everything I can for my country. All the players in the team are ready to do their best.”
Much is expected from the Whites, despite a mixed run under Zaccheroni. The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician has overseen just three wins from 11 matches in 2018.
These results, however, have not curbed Essa’s “boundless ambitions” of success on home soil.
He said: “The UAE enters the latest edition of the Asian Cup with boundless ambitions. We promise to work hard with our colleagues to write a new chapter in the history of UAE football.
“The team is capable of achieving our aspirations and turning the dream into reality. I hope that the success of the team and its players will be in this tournament.”
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