LONDON: Alberto Zaccheroni said the UAE’s 2-0 win over India on Thursday could be a springboard to a successful tournament.
The hosts needed a late goal to rescue a point in their opening match against Bahrain last Saturday — the only thing more underwhelming than the result being the performance.
That came on the back of a patchy run of form and questions about the ability of the Whites to to mount a title challenge on home soil.
But having beaten India — thanks to goals either side of half-time from Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout — the side’s Italian coach praised his players for the improved showing.
“I think our first game and performance against Bahrain was a rather deceiving one,” he said.
“We were very disappointed not to get the win in that match, but against India we started very well from the beginning, and our performance was gradually evolving and getting better throughout the match.
“We faced some difficulties at times against a very good and fast India side.
“I congratulate my players for their efforts, they truly deserved the victory.”
The UAE’s progress is still far from assured, with just one point separating them from India in second and third-placed Thailand who they will meet in their final group match on Monday.
Zaccheroni is only too aware of what is at stake and will now study the Southeast Asians closely in order tmake sure his side can make the second round.
“We admit that our defense has not been entirely effective, but the general performance was good and winning with a great spirit was very important,” he said.
“Following their loss to India, the Thailand team changed their coach. However, they then went on to change their style and tactics when they beat Bahrain. I now need to study Thailand closely in order to prepare my team for what will be a difficult match.”