Dubai: Alberto Zaccheroni saw huge improvement in his UAE side after their 2-0 friendly win over Yemen at Al Wasl on Tuesday, but added there was still work to do to perfect them for January’s Asian Cup hosting.
Goals either half from Saif Rashid and Ali Salmeen on 20 and 66 minutes gave the Whites their second win in 10 games, with this being their last official build-up match before staging the 24-team competition from January 5 to February 1.
“If you look from the beginning until now the improvement is huge,” said the Italian, who was starting from his side’s first preparatory friendly, a goalless draw against Andorra in August.
“That was at the beginning of the season, but now we have had seven games together and this is good for the national team.”
Of those seven games, the UAE have scored six goals and registered three draws and two defeats with their only other win coming against Laos, 3-0 in September.
“Every player is playing well together now and they understand each other a lot more, physically they are stronger and more aggressive.
“In terms of negatives, everyone knows that we have some injuries,” he said in reference to star player Omar Abdul Rahman, who is set to miss the tournament after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while playing for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal last month.
“Each player also needs more solutions and should press more and not sit back. If we can improve those two things you will see our national team on top,” he said.
Asked why he had chosen to play mostly Central and South American teams like Bolivia and Venezuela in this period instead of Asian sides, he replied: “We will play Asian sides in the Asian Cup, but I want to play against teams that don’t know anything about us.
“These sides are smart and enjoy their football and that will help us play fast with more control.”
Despite now having no more Fifa dates with which to slot official friendlies before the tournament, Zaccheroni said the door was still open to players.
“We have just one month until the Asian Cup and everyone must work hard to be ready. I will follow all league matches and try to choose the best national team.
“It is open for everyone. If you do well in the field you will get into the national team.”
One obstacle he did foresee however was next month’s Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi from December 12-22.
“I don’t have too much time now and too many of our players who play for Al Ain will be playing in the Club World Cup making it difficult for us.”
The UAE will play Thailand, India and Bahrain in Group A of the Asian Cup. The last and only other time they hosted the tournament back in 1996, they finished runners-up to Saudi Arabia. At the last Asian Cup four years ago in Australia, they also recorded their best overseas result by finishing third.