Mahdi: It’s all on me

Matt Jones - Editor 00:49 13/10/2016
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Lay it on me: Mahdi Ali has shielded his players from criticism

Mahdi Ali has refused to criticise his players for their humbling 3-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia – instead claiming the blame rests solely with him.

A positive away performance transformed into a gharish nightmare as the Whites conceded three goals in the final 17 minutes in Jeddah to hand victory to the Green Falcons who soared to the top of Group B in Asia qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Al Ahli right-back Abdulaziz Haikal had a game to forget and his high-profile error with 11 minutes remaining led to the killer second goal from the hosts, scored by Nawaf Al Abed.

Even though Ali acknowledged there were individual errors in the game, the 51-year-old, a former UAE international himself, said he was responsible for the loss – their joint-heaviest in two years.

“Yes, I take responsibility because I’m the coach, even if there was an individual mistake,” said Ali. “The coach is to blame because he is primarily responsible for the result and I accept that with an open mind.

“We were the better team in the first-half half, while in the second half, there were individual mistakes and there was a near-collapse.

“The exploitation of our mistakes was why the Saudi team were so good in the second half. Their desire was stronger to win in front of their own fans.”

Despite a result that is sure to sap morale, Ali insisted it is crucial his players remain upbeat with qualification to just a second-ever World Cup finals very much a reality for the Whites.

“The opportunity to qualify still exists,” he added. “We are still at the beginning of the journey. For example, the Saudi team still has a match against Japan, and if they lost in Tokyo and we achieve a victory against Iraq, the difference between us and Saudi Arabia is one point, instead of four, which is a truer reflection of the group because the differences are not great between the four teams.

“But that does not mean that I am satisfied with the performance of the team, they need to make some changes and see why we lost the match and that we restore confidence in ourselves.”

FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP 2017 DETAILS REVEALED

The organising committee of the FIFA Club World Cup to take place in Abu Dhabi in December 2017 have approved the official programme of the tournament.

The event will kick off with the opening ceremony and match at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on December 6 next year, with the final to be held at Zayed Sports City in the capital on December 16.

General secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council Aref Al Awani announced the details at a meeting held at FIFA Headquarters in Zurich on Tuesday. The draw for the tournament will also be held in Zurich in October 2017.

Al Awani, also a member of the higher organising committee of the FIFA Club World Cup Abu Dhabi 2017, said: “This event and other various international championships taking place in Abu Dhabi will help develop and expand sport practicing in Abu Dhabi.”

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