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Iraq and UAE chase Gulf Cup dream

THE 21st Gulf Cup final between the UAE and Iraq today will be "the best match of the tournament", according to the opposing national teams' head coaches.

UAE tactician Mahdi Ali and Iraq coach Hakeem Shaker expressed similar opinions about the title showdown which will decide the champions of this prestigious regional competition.

"Tomorrow's final, as I see it, is the best match of the tournament," Ali said in his pre-match Press conference.

Shaker commented: "The best two teams in the competition are in the final. We will let the result speak for itself tomorrow."

The final is scheduled to kick off at 5.45pm. it will be played at the National Stadium in Riffa, and Ali says the Emiratis will be ready for the massive challenge ahead of them.

"Iraq are very tough opponents, but our team has improved to a higher level in each match we play," Ali said. "We are ready. We have no injuries and our players are looking forward to fighting for the Cup."

Ali stressed however that his team is not taking anything for granted, even if they have been one of the better sides in the competition.

"We have played well in our four matches so far, but whatever happened in the past is in the past. We must now look to the future, and winning this next game is our goal," Ali explained.

Meanwhile, Ali expressed his delight with the great support the UAE national team has received from their fans, the media and from all other sectors.

Proud

"I am very proud of our fans, especially all those who flew in their thousands to support us during the semi-finals," Ali said. "I thank them for coming and hope they will be here for the finals as well. The fans make the game; without them there is no good match.

"Their presence pushes us to go for a win, and hopefully we can do our best in the final so that we all can go home happy."

On the other hand, Shaker called on his players to take advantage of all of their chances in today's winner-take-all encounter.

"We must use all our chances tomorrow to try and score and win," Shaker said.

The Iraqi national added that he feels less pressure than what was there in the final four, when they narrowly defeated hosts Bahrain in a tense penalty shootout to punch their ticket to the title game.

"The pressure is less in the final compared to the semis," Shaker explained. "This doesn't mean that the final is not difficult; we still have to be more careful and more attentive. And in the final, you either win or you don't.

"But all our players are prepared. We will be doing the best we can to come away with a win."



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