Abu Dhabi: Mahdi Ali, the UAE national team’s head coach, was left satisfied after watching his team beat Estonia 2-1 in their friendly match on Wednesday night as the squad stepped up their preparations for the 21st Gulf Cup in Bahrain, from January 5 next year.
Hamdan Al Kamali, from the penalty spot, and Ali Mabkhoot scored for the home team, while Jarmo Ahjupera scored for the guests at the Zayed Stadium here.
“I am happy with the performance and results of the team not only in this match but in the past five friendlies we played since I took over as head coach.” Ali said after the match.
Since Ali took over as head coach in the summer, the UAE have played against Japan, who beat them by just a single goal, Kuwait, who they beat 3-0, Uzbekistan — a 2-2 draw — and Bahrain, who they thrashed 6-2.
“I tried to give a chance to the players who did not take part with us in the last match or have been away from the team in the past period. These matches are of great importance to us because most of our players do not find enough chance with their clubs’ teams and are mostly substitutes,” Ali said.
“I am really satisfied with the standards of the players and I believe that we will be in good condition by the time we start our campaign in the Gulf Cup after our next training camp in Doha.”
The UAE will travel to Qatar on December 18 for their training camp, during which they will play two friendly matches.
“It is of great benefit to play against different schools of football. We played against teams from East and West Asia, the Gulf region and from Europe and I believe that our team have established their character and personality as the players have earned the winning mentality,” Ali added.
But Ali has one regret — the absence of local fans from their recent matches in the UAE. “I hope the team will continue registering good results and show this standard of the game because that will convince the fans to come and support their country’s team, because the players really need that support,” he said.
The UAE had only met Estonia once before, in 1999, when the match ended in a 2-2 tie.