Manama: Kuwait coach Goran Tufegdzic insists his side can beat the UAE in Tuesday’s Gulf Cup semi-finals after knocking out sleeping giants Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The UAE topped Group A with nine points from three straight wins over Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, while Kuwait advanced second from Group B, behind Iraq, after six points from two wins over Yemen and Saudi. They will now face each other in the knockouts at the National Stadium from 5.45pm on Tuesday.
In the other semi-final that day, at the same venue from 8.45pm, unbeaten Group B leaders Iraq will play hosts and Group A runners-up Bahrain.
In ten previous fixtures against the UAE, Kuwait have won three, lost five and drawn two, but under Tufegdzic’s reign, the record ten times Gulf Cup champions and current holders, have won two competitive fixtures and lost two friendly matches.
It’s this previous experience with home and away wins in the 2014 World Cup qualifying third round, that gives Tufegdzic confidence, albeit with consideration that the UAE has gone through a rapid transformation since then under new coach Mahdi Ali.
“The UAE are really strong,” said Tufegdzic. “They have won all three of their group matches and their players have been together a long time. It’s very difficult for us to meet them but at the same time we still have a chance to win.
“We’ve played against them before and have won World Cup qualifying matches at home and away. We have experience of the UAE and know how to play them. But it’s a little different from before. Their style has changed greatly since then and in the days before the semi-final we plan to see exactly how.”
Tufegdzic added: “I haven’t seen all the UAE’s group matches because we’ve had training at the same time. But I have all the DVDs and starting tonight and over the next few days we’ll be analysing them. I can’t say anymore until then but I know they are a very good team.”
Of his side’s final and decisive group game to send Saudi crashing out of the tournament, thanks to Yousuf Al Sulaiman’s countering run onto a long ball on 12 minutes, Tufegdzic said: “We’re very satisfied with the win today. We played with big motivation and energy to win and qualify to the semis.
“Rijkaard tried to make some surprise changes from the last two games but we were able to score. After that they lost confidence. Their coach tried to change things up front in the second half but they couldn’t find an answer.”
“It’s not easy to beat Saudi. They played the best football in this competition. They like to play passing football and against Iraq and Yemen they had more possession. We made a few mistakes but what is important is that we were able to qualify.”