India vs United Arab Emirates: Zaccheroni shrugs off speculation over future

Croatia's Zlatko Dalic is rumoured to have been lined up to take over UAE but incumbent coach Alberto Zaccheroni shrugged off the rumour.

Alberto Zaccheroni's contract with UAE expires at the end of the Asian Cup.   -  Getty Images

United Arab Emirates coach Alberto Zaccheroni says reports about his future will not be a distraction ahead of the Asian Cup host's crunch clash with India.

A 1-1 draw with Bahrain in its Group A opener added to the pressure on UAE ahead of its next two fixtures, with India topping the table after thrashing Thailand 4-1 last time out.

UAE must either finish in the top two of the pool or as one of the four best third-placed teams to progress, with Zaccheroni, whose contract expires at the end of the Asian Cup, coming under fire.

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Reports suggest Zlatko Dalic, who last year led Croatia to its first World Cup final, has been lined up as a replacement for Zaccheroni after the tournament.

But the former Japan coach shrugged off the speculation when he spoke to reporters ahead of Thursday's match at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

"My focus is on the game against India and to deliver the best performance and satisfy the UAE fans," the Italian said. "My confidence in the players is very big. I will do my best to deliver the best result. My main objective is to win the Asian Cup.

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"As a coach I have more than 35 years of experience – I don't care about such stuff. We know that we failed our fans and we apologise to them. We all hoped to win to satisfy the fans. But our focus now is on the game against India. I have enough experience."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

India - Sunil Chhetri

After scoring two goals against Thailand, there is no doubt Chhetri has already made his mark on the tournament. India's captain took his international tally to 67 goals with that brace, moving him past the great Lionel Messi into second place on the list of most prolific current international players. The only man in front of him is Cristiano Ronaldo, but Chhetri should narrow the 18-goal deficit during the rest of the Asian Cup.

UAE - Ahmed Khalil

With the host heading to defeat in its Group A opener against Bahrain, it needed a cool head to make sure it took a point from the game. Cue Khalil, who stepped up to convert a late penalty that ensures UAE is not facing a mountain to climb if it is to qualify. The Shabab Al-Ahli star is a former Asian Footballer of the Year, having won the title in 2015, and can show his quality against India.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- UAE defeated India 2-0 in their only previous meeting at the Asian Cup. It was in the group stages of the 1984 tournament.

- Following the 4-1 victory against Thailand in the opening group game, India will be looking to avoid defeat in back to back Asian Cup games for the first time.

- UAE will be looking to extend its unbeaten run to three games in the Asian Cup – it last went on a longer run without defeat in the competition between the 1992 and 1996 tournaments (seven games – W4 D3 L0).

- India has scored seven goals in its last three Asian Cup games (W1 D0 L2) – more than it managed in its first eight games in the competition between 1964 and 2011 (five goals).

- UAE has kept just one clean sheet across its last 13 Asian Cup games (W4 D3 L6), a 0-0 with North Korea during the 2011 group stages, conceding in each of its last nine matches.

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