Abu Dhabi: The goals may not have been flying in for the UAE but, having made it to the Gulf Cup final beating Iraq 4-2 in penalties, the supporters are flying in.
The excitement has been building as the UAE progressed through the tournament and now that they are in the summit clash against Oman on Friday.
And the good news coming in for the fans who may be looking to travel down for the clash is that, as per the instructions from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation and chairman and chief executive of Emirates airline and Group, Emirates will operate a special A380 flight to Kuwait for UAE supporters to attend the final of the Gulf Cup.
The UAE have won the tournament twice, in 2007 and 2013, and have finished as runners-up on three occasions. Oman, who made it to the final by beating Bahrain 1-0 with a first-half own-goal by Mahdi Abdul Jabar, will make their first appearance in the final since 2009.
UAE’s Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni was delighted for his team but accepted that his forwards still need time to hone their finishing skills. “They are still not technically ready and I have been in place for only little more than two months, which is very short period,” the new coach told reporters after the game. “We need more time and work to build a strong team.”
Zaccheroni added that his team played strongly against Iraq who showed a lot of determination in regulation time and in extra time.
“We achieved the important thing of qualifying for the final,” he said.
His team’s attack included Ahmad Khalil from the start for the first time and Zaccheroni was pleased with his strikers. “We have created many opportunities to score by playing three attackers and all that the Iraqi team managed was just one chance. The attackers’ performance stood out, although they didn’t score,” he said.
“As usual, we played with balance and created chances to score in both halves. I was very happy with Khalil, who started for the first time after a long absence. Esmail Hammadi, who came off the bench, and also contributed well and Omar Abdul Rahman was at his best all throughout.”
Defender Muhanad Salem was a class act and his goal-line save in the second half of extra-time kept the UAE in the match until the end.
“There is an improvement in the overall level of the team so far. We deserve to be in the finals. All the players are determined to return with the trophy to provide joy to the leaders and people of the United Arab Emirates,” said Salem.