Gulf Cup: Mabkhout in­tent on more goals for UAE against Iraq

The National - News - - SPORT | FOOTBALL - JOHN McAU­LEY

Ali Mabkhout has vowed to con­tinue to fire his side’s Gulf Cup of Na­tions bid af­ter open­ing his ac­count with a hat­trick against Ye­men on Tues­day night.

The striker, who last month be­came his coun­try’s all-time lead­ing scorer, notched all three goals in the 3-0 vic­tory in Doha to kick-start the national team’s at­tempt at a third re­gional crown.

The tre­ble se­cured for Bert van Mar­wijk’s side the per­fect start to Group A, and took Mabkhout’s re­cent record with the side to nine goals in his past four matches. The UAE next take on Iraq on Fri­day, who be­gan their cam­paign on Tues­day with a hugely im­pres­sive 2-1 vic­tory against hosts Qatar.

“I promise to make even more ef­forts in the com­ing matches, al­though Iraq will not be easy, as was shown in their vic­tory against a strong op­po­nent in the first game,” Mabkhout said. “Ev­ery­one must fo­cus more and work to­gether to make the UAE fans happy.

“The most im­por­tant thing for the team is the vic­tory and get­ting the three points, re­gard­less of who scores.”

Mabkhout’s hat-trick car­ried him to 11 Gulf Cup goals over­all, lift­ing him one above former for­ward Fa­had Khamis to be­come the UAE’s lead scorer in the com­pe­ti­tion. The Al Jazira front­man, who started 2022 World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion with six goals in three matches, em­pha­sised the team’s con­tri­bu­tion to his rich vein of form.

“Ev­ery player as­pires to ac­com­plish per­sonal achieve­ments, and I’m very happy to reach this num­ber,” Mabkhout said.

“But the team is the pri­or­ity. Only with their sup­port am I able to score the goals.” The UAE will wait to dis­cover if Ham­dan Al Ka­mali will be avail­able for Fri­day, with the de­fender un­able to com­plete the match against Ye­men through in­jury.

The national team’s back­line had en­joyed a pretty com­fort­able night on Tues­day, with Ye­men of­fer­ing lit­tle threat. How­ever, they ex­pect a tougher ex­am­i­na­tion against Iraq, three-time win­ners of the tour­na­ment, whose suc­cess against Asian cham­pi­ons Qatar sur­prised some­what.

Van Mar­wijk, though, does not be­lieve the match will have any bear­ing on Fri­day’s en­counter at the Khal­ifa In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium.

“The re­sult of that game has no im­pact on the team; we deal with each game sep­a­rately,” the Dutch­man said. “The match be­tween the UAE and Iraq will be dif­fer­ent.”

On the promis­ing start against Ye­men, Van Mar­wijk added: “Our team has per­formed well in all the dif­fer­ent positions, and the play­ers have car­ried out what we asked of them. We could have scored more than three goals had it not been for missed op­por­tu­ni­ties.”


Ali Mabkhout, right, scored all three goals in UAE’s 3-0 win over Ye­men

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