United Arab Emirates v Thailand: Zaccheroni focused on Group A top spot

Asian Cup host UAE needs just a point from its clash with Thailand on Monday to secure top spot in Group A.

Ali Mabkhout al Hajeri controls the ball during a passage of play in UAE's 2-0 win over India.   -  AP

United Arab Emirates coach Alberto Zaccheroni is focused on clinching top spot in Group A as the Asian Cup host aims to book a place in the last 16 when it faces Thailand.

Having drawn against Bahrain before beating India, Zaccheroni's side needs just one point from its final group game to secure progression to the knockout stages.

UAE sits in pole position at the moment, a point ahead of both Thailand and India, which faces Bahrain in Group A's other game on Monday.

And Zaccheroni believes UAE's performance in its 2-0 win over India last time out indicated that the tournament host is growing as a side.

"First of all, we are so happy that we won the last match and nearly qualified the UAE team to the last 16," Zaccheroni told a news conference in Al Ain on Sunday.

"But our focus will be high on achieving the top spot and qualifying without looking or considering the result of the other match.

"The development of our performance is slow, but our ambition is to play well and show our best performance. Our progress is gradual.

"After this stage we will play against stronger teams in a knockout stage, but, for me, the players are fully ready.

"In terms of performance, the team is progressing. And I hope the performance will progress further and in the coming match you'll see something else."

Thailand sacked coach Milovan Rajevac following a 4-1 defeat to India in its opening fixture, and interim boss Sirisak Yodyardthai oversaw a 1-0 win over Bahrain in his first match in charge.

Zaccheroni added: "We are playing against a very developed national team with a different style of play, who is competing to win qualification to the last 16.

"For me, the match won't be easy. We need to perform at our best level, better than our previous matches."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UAE – Ali Mabkhout 

Ali Mabkhout has been preferred to Ahmed Khalil up top for UAE, and he wrapped up the win against India with an 88th-minute effort to open his account for this Asian Cup campaign. The Al Jazira forward has been in fine form for his club this term, netting 15 goals from 12 appearances.

Thailand – Chanathip Songkrasin

Having scored eight goals in 2018 for J-League side Consadole Sapporo, winger Chanathip Songkrasin brought that form to the fore against Bahrain will offer Thailand a real threat.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first encounter between UAE and Thailand in the Asian Cup.
- UAE has gone three games without defeat in the Asian Cup (W2 D1), its longest unbeaten streak in the competition (excluding penalty shoot-outs) since a run of seven games between the 1992 third-place play-off and the 1996 final (W4 D3).
- Thailand will be facing the Asian Cup host for just the second time in its history after drawing 1-1 against Lebanon in the 2000 edition.
- UAE ended a run of nine games in the Asian Cup without a clean sheet, beating India 2-0 on matchday two – it will be aiming to secure back-to-back clean sheets in the competition for the first time since 1996 (run of four consecutive shut outs).
- Thailand is looking to win successive games in the Asian Cup for the first time in its history following the 1-0 victory against Bahrain last time out, with its only other win coming against Oman in the 2007 edition.

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