Lifting the Asian Cup trophy on home soil is a dream that is becoming ever so vivid for the United Arab Emirates players and Ali Salmeen is no different.
With the host nation gearing up for a semi-final clash with Qatar on Tuesday, the Emirati midfielder admitted that the prospect of winning the tournament in front of their home support is providing more than enough motivation.
The UAE finished in third place at the 2015 edition of the competition in Australia but under head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, they are hoping to be finalists as they were in 1996 – the last time they played hosts. They’ll also be looking to extended their unbeaten run against Qatar which dates all the way back to 2001.
Al Wasl star Salmeen fully appreciates the importance of performing well at home and insists the encounter at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium will command their complete focus.
“We are very well prepared for this important game, and our focus is purely on the match,” the 23-year-old said as quoted by the AFC’s official website.
“We need to beat Qatar so that we can reach the final. It is true to say that it is a crucial game, not only because it is a semi-final, but also because it is in our own country.
“Although we have Khalifa Mubarak and Mohamed Gharib missing through injury, we will do our utmost to ensure that we do not miss them. Rest assured, we will be doing everything we can to beat Qatar and qualify for the final.”
The UAE have the distinct advantage of being able to play on their own turf, and Salmeen is confident the home fans will turn up not only in numbers but in full voice in Abu Dhabi.
“I do not think that our fans need a rallying cry because they have been with us from the beginning,” he said.
“They are the strength which can inspire us on the pitch. At our last game [against Australia] they came in large numbers so I hope even more will attend the semi-final with Qatar.”
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