*Exciting day on cards with semi-final spots up for grabs
It’s a blockbuster day at the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup, with four matches scheduled on Monday to decide the three semi-finalists. Iraq has already sealed a spot in the semis, with two victories in two matches, but it hasn’t been a smooth sailing for the rest of the seven teams.
At the Khalifa International Stadium, Qatar will take on the United Arab Emirates in their last Group A game with the hosts needing just a draw to enter the last four. After their loss to Iraq in the opening game, Qatar bounced back in splendid fashion with a 6-0 rout of Yemen. That huge win on Friday has given the Asian Champions a five-goal advantage, which means Qatar needs just a point against the UAE.
However, head coach Felix Sanchez has cautioned his players to approach the game with a positive mindset and not to settle for anything but a victory. “We are going for a win because playing for a draw is dangerous. It is always important to look for three points. It will be a difficult game but we feel very confident,” the Spaniard said on the eve of the game.
The Qatar coach has called on the home fans to fill the stadium in large numbers and cheer for their team. “I hope the stadium will be full. We need to have the support of the fans. The fans motivate us and they push us to give our best,” Sanchez said.
The last time Qatar faced UAE was in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi in January this year, where they romped to a 4-0 victory en route to winning their maiden continental title. It’s expected to be a close contest this time around. Like Qatar, UAE beat Yemen in their first match at Gulf Cup, but lost to an impressive Iraq side in their next game.
UAE coach Bert Van Marwijk conceded Qatar will start as favourites, saying his team lacks experience compared to the hosts. “Qatar has players who have been playing for years with each other, and this has shown in their performance. Our project started months ago with new players, but there is a positive development despite the short period of preparation,” he added.
Meanwhile, in Group B all the four teams – Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are in contention for a place in the semi-finals. Saudi, who were shocked by Kuwait in the opening game, threw the group wide open when they beat Bahrain on Saturday.
Monday in an 8pm kick-off at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, Saudi will lock horns with defending champions Oman, who lead the group with four points. In another match, Kuwait take on Bahrain around the same time at the Khalifa International Stadium.
While a draw for Oman would be enough to make it to the last four, Saudi, Kuwait and Bahrain will all need victories to ensure a place in the semis.
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