Thailand's defender Chalermpong Kerdka , left, fights for the ball with India's forward Sunil Chhetri during the AFC Asian Cup group A soccer match between Thailand and India at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni knows the crucial Group A Asian Cup clash against India is make or break for the UAE and his players are ready to raise their game for the showdown at Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday night. The action starts at 8pm.

The hosts served up a lacklustre performance in their opening match against Bahrain which saw them salvage a 1-1 draw following a penalty conversion by Ahmad Khalil in the dying minutes.

“I have full confidence in the players that tomorrow we will play very well. The performance will be good,” asserted Zaccheroni, whose team received a lot of flak from fans following the result in the opener.

“We will start with the intention of winning. I know we will face difficulties, but I have full confidence in all the players that they will play a good game tomorrow.”

The Italian said they have worked on their mistakes and an improved performance is very much on the cards against India, who stunned everyone including their own fans, by pulling off a sensational 4-1 win against Thailand in their opening match.

“We had a meeting with the players after our game with Bahrain and we discussed the strengths and weakness of the Indian team. It will not be an easy game, but UAE team will change the tactics. It will change the scenario in the next game,” said Zaccheroni, who said they knew from the beginning that the tournament was not going to be easy as Asian teams have taken giant strides over the years.

“What we have noticed from the start of the Asian Cup is that there are no easy games. From my own assessment — and this is not a surprise — there has been tremendous development in Asia football. Indian team played a very distinguished game and that performance came against a strong Thailand team. They also scored some good goals.

The 65-year-old felt both sides have contrasting styles of play and hence the contest will be interesting.

“Both teams are completely different and they will tap the potential of their players and are good on counter attacks,” he said. “However, I have full confidence in my players and I know they will do very well. There will be a lot of passion and desire to win, more than the first game. We will try to change the image of the team with his game. It will be completely different from what we played against Bahrain,.”

Zaccheroni has a selection dilemma with players continuing to be on the injury list.

Midfielder Said Rashif is recovering from a thigh injury while Bandar Al Ahbabi and defender Esmail Ahmed’s participation will depend of how they were feeling after the final training session on Wednesday.

“Rashid, we didn’t decide if he is ready or not as he is still having some pain. Esmail and Bandar, we will assess today and hopefully, they will get a run in,” said Zaccheroni.

Meanwhile, UAE Football Federation refuted reports in local media that they are in talks with former Al Ain and Croatian national team coach Zlatko Dalic to take on the reigns from Zaccheroni after this tournament. When asked if such news has added any pressure on him ahead of the contest, Zaccheroni said he was used to such things.

“I have more than 35 years of experience in coaching and I don’t care about such stuff,” he said. “We know we failed our fans and we apologised to them. We all hoped to win to satisfy the fans, but now our focus is on the India match. In football, there are a lot of things being said outside of the pitch. My focus is on the next game against India to get the best possible performance from the players.”