Dubai: UAE keeper-captain Ali Khaseif put on a show of solidarity after his side’s 3-0 win over Laos in Spain on Tuesday, saying they were ‘all in the same boat’, despite criticism of the coaches’ tactics.
Ali Mabkhout got two before the half hour, while Omar Abdul Rahman added a third with more than 20 minutes remaining to register the UAE’s first win in six matches. It was the first time they scored more than one goal in normal time since Alberto Zaccheroni took over last October, and it doubled their entire output of just three scored from the Italian’s other 11 games in charge.
The former Japan boss was rumoured to be headed for the chopping block after losing 2-0 to Trinidad and Tobago last Thursday in another friendly in Girona, with the UAE FA even issuing a vote of confidence.
Following a change in tactics from three at the back to four however, the UAE were able to give a better account of themselves on Tuesday, alleviating some of the strain on Zaccheroni.
“There is no team in the Arabian Gulf League playing three at the back,” said the Al Jazira shot stopper. “We tried to accommodate the plan but couldn’t apply it. We do not want to put the blame on the coach or the players as we are all in one boat.
“Everyone saw how Zaccheroni changed the plan after the Trinidad game and everyone saw how that reflected in today’s game. It is not a shame that the trainer is changing things.
“I think it’s very brave and it is rare to find a coach who can give up his plan and change it,” added Khaseif, before denying the players were at odds with the Italian.
Changing the coach now would be hugely detrimental to the squad with it being less than four months away from the UAE’s hosting of the Asian Cup in January. That said, comfortable friendly wins over teams placed 101 positions below them in the rankings, just mask the cracks.
For his part, Zaccheroni defended the decision to play minnow opposition in Spain.
“It’s true we encountered a weak team, but Laos has fast players and that’s what we’ve been looking for,” he said.
“We deliberately chose weak teams because the main goal at the beginning of the camp is to build up the identity of the team and the way of the game. We chose humble opponents to apply the required players.
“The next stage will see friendly matches with strong teams during team camps in October and November.
“Our performance was distinctive, the lines converged and we applied high pressure, I am satisfied. We created many opportunities and didn’t convert them but we will work on that for coming matches.”
Hosts UAE face India, Bahrain and Thailand in Group A of the Asian Cup from January 5 to February 1.