Khalifa International Stadium will host a confrontation between the UAE and Hong Kong teams, on Sunday, as part of the first round of Group C of the 2023 Asian Football Cup, currently being held in Qatar.
The UAE and Hong Kong teams are in the third group, along with the Iranian and Palestinian teams.
The Emirati “Al-Abyad” seeks to win the first group match, in order to proceed with booking a ticket to the knockout rounds, which the team succeeded in achieving in the last two editions of the competition.
The UAE national team will try to achieve victory at the beginning of its group matches, in order to gain good momentum before its next two matches, first against Palestine on the 18th of January, then Iran on the 23rd of the same month, in order to guarantee one of the passes to the second round.
24 teams will participate in the tournament, distributed into 6 groups, with 4 teams in each group, with the winner and runner-up of each group advancing to the round of 16, in addition to the best third-placed team.
The UAE national team had reached the semi-finals in the last two editions of the tournament, losing in the 2015 semi-final to Australia, the host country at that time, and losing at home in the 2019 edition in the same round to Qatar by a clean score.
But circumstances may be different in the 2023 edition in Qatar, especially with the advancing age of some of the team’s key elements, such as Khaled Issa, the goalkeeper of the Emirati team Al Ain (34 years old), and the striker and historical top scorer for the team with 85 goals, Ali Mabkhout (33 years old), the Emirati Al Jazira player. But the team also relies on other elements, represented by Al-Jazira defender Khalifa Al-Hammadi (25 years old) and Al-Ain player Yahya Nader (25 years old), in addition to the attacking duo of Al-Wasl Fabio Lima and Caio Canedo.
The UAE national team will rely on the experience of its Portuguese coach, Paulo Bento, who previously coached his country in the 2012 European Nations Cup and the 2014 World Cup, in addition to leading the South Korean national team in the last two editions of the Asian Nations and the World Cup.
The only friendly experience for the UAE national team came before the start of the tournament against the Oman national team, which they lost with a clean goal in Abu Dhabi before preparing for the major continental event.
On the other hand, the Hong Kong national team enters the match aiming to achieve a positive result in its first participation in the tournament since the 1968 edition in Iran.
The Hong Kong national team relies on its veteran goalkeeper, Yap Hong Fei (33 years old), and the young striker, Michael Odipolozor, a German player for Ingolstadt, to lead the team’s hopes of achieving results different from those expected in the tournament.
The Hong Kong national team played three friendly matches in preparation for the tournament, starting the new year by facing the Chinese national team and winning it 2-1, before losing to Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia 1-2 and 0-2, respectively.
Despite the difficulty of the task, the Hong Kong national team, led by its Norwegian coach Jörn Andersen, is looking for a surprise in a group that will not be easy in light of the presence of the UAE, Iran, as well as the Palestinian national team.
Andersen, 60 years old, has previously coached several clubs, such as German Mainz, which he led between 2008 and 2009. He also previously worked as an assistant at Borussia Mönchengladbach, and his journey in the Asian continent began by coaching the North Korean national team in 2016 before moving in 2018 to coach. Incheon, South Korea, and from there to the Hong Kong national team, which he has been coaching for three years, which he spent in ascending to the Asian Nations Cup for the fourth time in its history.
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