UAE head coach Ali focused on Iran clash
United Arab Emirates head coach Mahdi Ali is focused on beating Iran in their final Asian Cup Group C game on Monday rather than contemplating who his side might face in the quarter-finals.
The UAE progressed to the last eight of the competition with a 2-1 victory over Bahrain at Canberra Stadium on Thursday and top their pool on goal difference ahead of a clash with Iran, who progressed courtesy of a 1-0 win over Qatar.
Ali Ahmed Mabkhout put the UAE in front after only 15 seconds and a Mohamed Husain own goal 17 minutes from time ensured Ali's men made it two wins out of two after Jaycee Okwunwanne had equalised in the first half.
The UAE and Iran will lock horns in a group-decider in Brisbane on Sunday and Ali is focusing on that encounter rather than looking ahead to the last eight.
He said: "When we go to a game or training, we are thinking only of the Iran game. We are not thinking about any other team or about avoiding anyone else.
"The win will relax us a bit before the pressure against Iran. We will try to go again with the same mentality."
Ali made no secret over his ambition of coaching overseas after guiding the UAE through, but for the time being he is determined to enhance his reputation by making a big impact in Australia.
"When I have the chance to go abroad it will be a good experience and challenge," he added. "At the moment I'm still thinking about this competition and I hope we achieve our goal."
Bahrain head coach Marjan Eid rued his side's misfortune after they crashed out of the tournament.
He said: "Thanks to everybody here, congratulations to the Emirates team and thanks to all the players for their effort.
"We tried to play in a different mode and style in the first half but we conceded an early goal and we had no focus. We got the score back to 1-1, but the luck was not with Bahrain.
"We had a lot of opportunities (in the second half) but we were unlucky in this game."