Dubai: Defence and team spirit will help Yemen strive to make their people happy in times of hardship at the Asian Cup, according to coach Jan Kocian.
The debutants take on Iran, Iraq and Vietnam in Group D in the UAE at a time when their country is struggling from the effects of a three-year civil war.
“We want the best, but we know the situation is not easy because our players in Yemen aren’t playing league games or practicing,” said Kocian, a former Czech defender, who played for Germany’s St Pauli and the Czechoslovakia national team in the late 80s and early 90s, before managing Slovakia and assisting Austria in the early noughties.
“It’s not easy or even possible to go to Yemen at this time, that’s why we have been camping in Riyadh and Doha.
“We had just 10 days together to prepare for very strong [Asian Cup preparatory friendly] games against Saudi Arabia and the UAE in November [they lost 1-0 and 2-0 respectively in Dammam and Dubai],” Kocian said.
“Then we went back to Saudi and Qatar for a camp and had one more game in Abu Dhabi (in December which they lost 1-0 to Syria) before the Asian Cup.
“The target is not easy, we are newcomers and want the best, normally you want to win the game and we can dream of that as a small country, Yemen can dream of big victories against Iran and Iraq, it’s normal, it may not be real but we will try, the target is we want to win,” he added.
“Maybe we haven’t got the best players, the quality is definitely better in our opponents but we have a team and I want this team to play good defensively and start our preparation from defence because we cannot win the game by attack, we have to stay compact and play on the counter.
“We are very happy to see people from Yemen following our games in the UAE and Saudi. For people in Yemen the situation is very bad but maybe with victory we can give a good representation of them in the Asian Cup, because for those who stay in Yemen the life is very hard,” he said.
“We have Iran, Iraq and Vietnam. All teams are very strong, but we are good defensively and have good team spirit. I won’t tell you we will win but we want to.”
Yemen’s games will be against Iran in Abu Dhabi’s Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on January 7, Vietnam in Sharjah on January 12 and Vietnam in Al Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on January 16.
With the new expanded 24-team format, which has allowed previously unqualified teams like Yemen to qualify in the first place, there exists a clause in the groups that allows the four best third placed teams to progress. This means with an odd result, Yemen might still stand a chance of qualifying from the group in third.