Dubai: Shabab Ahli midfielder Majed Hassan has warned his UAE teammates that Tuesday’s friendly against Venezuela in Barcelona from 8pm (UAE time) will be much tougher than Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Honduras.
The Whites are currently on camp in Spain from October 6-16 in preparation for next year’s UAE-hosted Asian Cup from January 5 to February 1, where they face India, Bahrain and Thailand in Group A.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s side drew 1-1 against Honduras on Thursday in the first of their two friendlies in Barcelona — a side ranked 15 positions above them in the rankings.
They now take on a bigger force in Venezuela, who are ranked 45 positions above them. “We were satisfied with the level we showed against Honduras,” said Hassan. “We were close to winning if only we had converted our chances.
“The greatest benefit was that we applied the plan drawn up by the coach and executed things we had worked on in training.
“The next match against Venezuela will be completely different, given that they are one of the strongest teams in South America and occupy an advanced position in the rankings,” he added of 32nd ranked Venezuela.
“The atmosphere in camp is positive especially from the morale standpoint as the players are doing everything in their power to provide the best levels.”
There was widespread criticism of the team and coach Zaccheroni after their last camp in Spain last month where they lost 2-0 to Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly before beating Laos 3-0 in Girona.
One of the reasons for players getting over that so quickly, was the re-introduction of veteran Al Wahda striker Esmail Matar back into the side after a year out of the squad, said Hassan.
“He motivates the players in training and matches and gives daily advice to players. Considering his reputation in the team he’s important technically because of the level he offers, as well as the morale.”
After this, the UAE will have two domestic training camps from November 6-20 and December 15-31, before embarking on January’s Asian Cup hosting.
The UAE finished third in the last Asian Cup in Australia four years ago, while their best ever result was achieved on home soil in 1996 where they finished second to Saudi Arabia. Defending champions Australia and record most winners Japan, Saudi and Iran, all on three wins, will be favourites along with last edition’s runners-up South Korea.