Mabkhout favourite for Golden Boot

Gulf Daily News Friday, 30th January 2015
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Mabkhout favourite for Golden Boot
NEWCASTLE: Sharpshoot-
n UAE’s Mabkhout ... favourite to win
the Golden Boot
er Ali Mabkhout can win
a tight race for the Asian
Cup’s Golden Boot when
the UAE face Iraq for the
consolation prize of finishing third today.
The UAE went down 2-0 to Australia and Iraq lost by the same scoreline
to South Korea, as their dreams of Asian
Cup glory were shattered in the semi-finals.
Both teams must now pick themselves up for an unwanted third-place
play-off in Newcastle, although Mabkhout has more motivation than most.
Deeply in tune with playmaker Omar
Abdulrahman, the striker has already
grabbed four goals, placing him joint
top of the scoring charts alongside Jordan’s Hamza Aldaradreh.
Among his strikes are the fastest goal in
Asian Cup history - after just 14 seconds
against Bahrain - and the volley that put
UAE 1-0 up against Japan before they
shocked the holders on penalties.
Another goal against 2007 champions
Iraq would take the Al Jazira marksman
clear on the scorers’ list and help him towards his aim of securing a big-money
move to Europe.
Socceroo Tim Cahill is lurking behind Mabkhout with three goals, while
South Korea’s Son Heung-Min and Lee
Jeong-Hyeop both have two ahead of
tomorrow’s final in Sydney.
UAE coach Mahdi Ali said he would
rest some players but not Mabkhout,
who top-scored at November’s Gulf
Cup and in Asian Cup qualification,
against Radhi Shenaishil’s Iraq.
But of greatest concern to Ali is that
UAE, favourites to host the 2019 Asian
Cup, finish third in what has been their
best campaign since they were runners-up in 1996.
“This is a good opportunity to give
other players a chance and to give some
a rest,” Ali said. “Of course I will make
some changes.
“But Ali (Mabkhout) will play tomorrow. If he gets top-scorer it would be
good for him and the team but the important thing is to win the game and go
home happy,” he added.
Meanwhile Iraq’s Shenaishil, on loan
for the tournament from Qatar Sports
Club, will also want a strong finish after
entering talks for a permanent deal with
his national team.
“I have had talks with the Iraqi FA but
there has been no pen to paper yet,” Shenaishil said. “Hopefully I’ll be talking
more with them in the days to come.”
Iraqi icon Younis Mahmoud is also
looking to the future after a team packed
with youngsters encouragingly reached
the last four, downing arch-rivals Iran
along the way.
“I’m not retiring after this Cup. We’re
now building a new generation and we
need to have experienced players with
them in the national team,” the striker
Australians eye
first soccer title
SYDNEY: The first Asian Cup held in Australia
has already exceeded expectations and now the
stars have aligned to produce what promises to be
a classic final.
Laudrup mulls
retirement in
a year despite
Qatar success
Laudrup could quit
coaching in a year,
with the Dane reluctant to grow old on
the bench after turning 50 last
June, the former Barcelona and
Real Madrid playmaker told Reuters.
Laudrup enjoyed a dazzling
playing career for club and country, his honours including Italy’s
Serie A championship, five consecutive Spanish La Liga titles
and the European Cup.
For Denmark, he was the balletic genius in the country’s joyous 1986 World Cup team that
beat former champions Uruguay
and West Germany 6-1 and 2-0
respectively before losing in the
last 16.
After hanging up his boots
in 1998, Laudrup embarked on
a coaching career that included stints at Spain’s Getafe and
Mallorca, Spartak Moscow and
Swansea City of the English Premier League, where he won the
League Cup in 2013.
“If I am a coach for one, two or
five years more, I don’t know yet,
but I turned 50 this (past) summer
and don’t want to become old on
the bench,” Laudrup said in an
email interview.
The nomadic Dane is now
coach of Qatar’s Lekhwiya, signing a one-year contract last June
after refusing offers from England and Spain.
“Because I already had that
experience, I preferred something
different in this last part of my
coaching career,” Laudrup added. “I don’t have a long-term plan
because I will not be a coach for
that long.
“I was offered a longer contract in Lekhwiya but I wanted to
see what it was like in Qatar, on
and off the pitch.”
Both sides will feel confident of emerging victorious in
tomorrow’s clash between the host nation and South Korea at Sydney’s
Olympic Stadium when the best attack in the tournament comes up
against the best defence.
The delicious contrast in styles is the perfect ending to a tournament
that has been full of unexpected twists and turns from the world’s most
populated and diverse region.
For the Australians, the final represents a chance to finally win a
major international soccer title, an anomaly for a sports-mad country
that has succeeded in almost every other sport in the world.
“It is a massive game. We
made the final four years ago
which was great for our nation,”
the Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said.
“We have been in Asia for a
while now and we haven’t won
anything in the men’s game, but
Caretaker boss
this gives us an opportunity at a
Radhi Shenaishil
national level to achieve someyesterday said he
was in talks with
Victory for South Korea would
Iraq’s football association
give the Taegeuk Warriors their
over a permanent deal after
first Asian Cup title since 1960 n Australia’s Mathew Leckie, centre, battles for the ball with UAE’s Mohanad Salem, left, and
Walid Abbas during their semi-final clash on Tuesday
their success at the Asian
and the country something to celCup.
ebrate after a grim year on and off
Qatar Sports Club loaned
the sporting field.
this year, had not made an Asian Cup final South Korea have yet to concede a goal, with
Shenaishil to Iraq for the
“The players are desperate to win this tour- since 1988.
first-choice goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon keeptournament and despite
nament,” defender Park Joo-ho said. “A lot
However, with the recently recruited Uli ing four clean sheets.
arriving just weeks ago, the
of people at home really want us to win this Stielike now in charge of an ambitious team,
They won each of their three group
former international detournament after 55 years.”
things are starting to look up.
games, against Oman, Kuwait and Austrafender led his country to the
Despite reaching the semi-finals of the
The former German international is look- lia by a solitary goal but found their range
World Cup in 2002, South Korea have strug- ing at a longer-term goal of restoring South in the knockout matches, beating Iraq 2-0
“I have had talks with the
gled to reproduce that sort of form since.
Korea as Asia’s best team and has started by in the semi-finals after star forward Son
Iraqi FA but there has been
They were eliminated in the group stage at plugging up holes in the defence.
Heung-min netted twice in the 2-0 quarno pen to paper yet,” Shetwo of the last three World Cups and before
In their five matches at the Asian Cup, ter-final win over Uzbekistan.
naishil said ahead of Iraq’s
third-place play-off against
the UAE.
“It’s a pleasure to serve my
country and hopefully I’ll be
talking more with them in
SYDNEY: South Korea prepared for Sat- the Taeguk Warriors have been to the semi-finals of loss of influential pair Lee Chung-Yong and Koo
the days to come.”
urday’s Asian Cup final against Australia the World Cup as recently as 2002.
Ja-Cheol by grinding out victory against the AustraThe 48-year-old’s contract
in a relaxed mood yesterday insisting all
Kim suggested that having beaten Australia 1-0 lians to finish top of Group A, giving them a slightly
with the Qatari side runs out
the pressure would be on the host nation. in the group stages already, South Korea could have easier schedule from the quarter-finals on.
in May and he said he wasn’t
“We don’t feel any pressure at all,” de- a psychological edge when they meet again in Syd“We’ve earned that advantage by beating them,”
yet in a position to sign with
fender Kim Chang-Soo told AFP before the Koreans ney where as many as 30,000 Red Devils fans are said striker Lee Keun-Ho, who has failed to score
the Lions of Mesopotamia,
contest their first final since 1988 when they were expected to cheer Uli Stielike’s side on.
during the tournament after being pushed out right
who won the Asian Cup in
beaten by Saudi Arabia.
to fill in for Lee Chung-Song. “We need to cut
“Team morale is very high because we’ve made
down on errors and keep possession better in the
“I have contract and I
it this far. We know how strong Australia are but
“It’s an advantage we’ve played them already so final.”
cannot disrespect them as
the spirit is good and once we step out on the pitch we have a feel for how they will play,” said the JaBut the Doha-based player shrugged off his own
they respected me. I cannot
anything can happen. We have a great chance to be pan-based player. “The Australians are a good team personal frustrations in Australia, where the Koreleave them right now,” said
part of history for Korean football.”
but it will give us a big lift to have such a big turn- ans have yet to concede a goal in five matches - the
Shenaishil, a mainstay of
South Korea’s failure to win Asia’s showcase out from the Korean fans.”
first time a side has reached the Asian Cup final
Iraq’s defence in the 1990s.
tournament since 1960 stretches belief given that
South Korea offset the potentially disastrous without being breached since 1976.
Iraq’s coach
keen to carry
on with job
South Koreans relaxed ahead of title clash