Asian Cup Opener: UAE Will Face Qatar

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Official draw for the 2015 Asian Cup
Presenters look at a screen displaying the groups after the official draw for the 2015 Asian Cup at the Sydney Opera House March 26, 2014. Hosts Australia were handed a tough draw for the 2015 Asian Cup on Wednesday when they were paired with twice former champions South Korea in the group stage Reuters

In the opening match of Asian Cup 2015, United Arab Emirates will play against Qatar in the second match of Group-C at the Canberra Stadium on Jan 11, 2015. The same day, Iran will face Bahrain at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. The news was announced at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday.

In light of this event, UAE coach Mahdi Ali said, "I did not wish to have three (Gulf Cup) nations in the same group to give more chances for them to qualify. A small competition reflecting the big one in Asia."

"We have already announced we want to be in the best four teams in Asia and I hope we achieve our goal. We wish to qualify for the semi-final. I think that the UAE have spent a lot of planning for this generation, I think we have a good generation who have played a lot of tournaments," Ali further added.

Meanwhile, the president of the UAEFA, Yousuf Yaqoob Al Serkal, showered his praise to the soccer team of UAE along with the administrative and technical staff involved in the game.

"They are well aware of the amount of responsibility they are shouldering towards their nation in the finals of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 during the month of January ... The draw was balanced and the 16 teams which have advanced to the final are the best in the continent," he said.

In reaction to UAE's draw in Group-C, he said, "I didn't wish to see three Gulf teams playing in the same group due to the short period of time between the Gulf Cup in Riyadh in November and the AFC Asian Cup finals in January 2015. This is a negative factor, but we need to be realistic to handle the situation. We will try to fine tune the squad from physical and psychological aspects to face the challenge."

"I wish our boys all the best and the association would revamp all its sources to serve the national team and provide the best possible preparation plan for the players. We are also confident that Mahdi Ali knows what should be done under such circumstances," he concluded.

Australia will meet Kuwait in Melbourne at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Jan 9. The Socceroos will then meet Oman on Jan 13 at Stadium Australia, followed by the match with Korea Republic in the final group game on Jan 17. 

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