Asian Cup preview: UAE v Qatar

UAE face off against Qatar at Canberra Stadium on January 11 at 6pm AEDST in the opening match of group C.

Head-to-head

Their last meeting was four years ago, in 2011, where the UAE emerged victorious in a 3-1 win on home soil. Qatar managed to snatch a 0-0 draw in a 2009 meeting between the two.

The game

These two neighbouring Gulf powerhouses find themselves clashing horns on the other side of the world. Both teams are expected to progress to the knockout stages making this a massive fixture.

Anticipate a tight and edgy game. The two teams have changed markedly since they last met on the pitch, and the unpredictability of the fixture makes it an intriguing match-up. Anything could happen.

While they look evenly matched the UAE has the upper hand coming into the game. The Emirati are in good form after a stellar qualifying campaign which saw them drop only two points. Qatar on the other hand qualified behind Bahrain in an otherwise soft group. 

The UAE is an interesting proposition in the tournament with their current crop marked as the next golden generation – the last one coming more than 20 years ago.

Many see them as a dark horse who have the potential to go deep into the tournament. They definitely have the ability to do so with a strong and established team and two in form strikers. Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil have been loving life in the international team, firing goals left, right and centre.

In contrast, Qatar are struggling to put anything in the back of the net. They lack an established goal scorer in their front three. Most of their goals come from midfield legend and Captain Khalfan Ibrahim, or ‘Khalfaninho’ as the Qatari fans hail him, who was named Asian Player of the Year at the tender age of 18.

Qatar, however, will be confident in their chances after winning the Gulf Cup in November – a tournament the UAE bowed out of in the semi-finals.

Both teams consist solely of players from their respective domestic leagues which makes their playing groups solid and cohesive.

The similar state of the teams, coupled with their identical objectives, makes this a do or die clash, with the winner in pole position for second spot in Group C.  

The big issue

Where will the breakthrough come from? The teams look evenly matched but the UAE can boast a varied source of goals and some in form strikers which gives them the advantage over a Qatari team.

 Qatar can match them over the rest of the park but the one area with huge question marks is the strike force.

Game breaker

Ali Mabkhout, top scorer in qualifying, could provide the cutting edge the Emirati need to take all three points. Qatar may be able to rely on goals from midfield in this fixture, but if they aspire to go deep into the tournament they will need a striker to stand up and deliver.

Prediction

UAE 2 – 1 Qatar

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