Al Ain: Victory was sweet for Ismaeil Matar and the United Arab Emirates as the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 hosts knocked defending champions Australia out of this year’s tournament on Friday evening, four years after losing out to the Socceroos in the semi-finals. Ali Mabkhout’s solitary goal midway through the second half ensured the UAE advanced to the last four for the second tournament in a row and erased the agony of losing 2-0 to the Australians in Newcastle in 2015.
Nine of Alberto Zaccheroni’s 23-man squad were involved in the last edition of the Continental Championship and veteran striker Ismaeil Matar claimed the quarter-final win over the Australians went some way towards soothing the memory of that loss.
“It was a tough game,” said the 35-year-old, who missed the 2015 Finals due to injury. “We played the defending champions and we know how good they are.
“We prepared mentally and physically for this game and the best thing is we got the result and we got our revenge because they beat us last time in the semi-final. We didn’t do it in the same way, but we beat them
Match Highlights - January 25 The UAE face Qatar in the semi-finals with a meeting against either Islamic Republic of Iran or Japan lying ahead for the winners as the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 approaches its climax.
“It’s too early to talk about this game,” said Matar of the impending meeting with Felix Sanchez’s team. “We have to enjoy our win and then we will switch off from the Australia game and we will focus on the next game.”
Matar played in Friday evening’s game in Al Ain as he featured from the start for the first time at this year’s Finals, with the veteran forward aiming to emulate the success he and his nation achieved at the Gulf Cup when it was held in the UAE in 2007.
Then, Matar led his country to the title – the UAE’s first success in the hotly contested regional competition – and he hopes to use his experience and know-how to reap a similar reward in the continental championship.