Monday, January 17, 2011

Abbas focusing on crucial Iran clash

DOHA // Walid Abbas is focusing on an Asian Cup victory over Iran to make amends for scoring a late own goal in the UAE's 1-0 loss to Iraq on Saturday night.

Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, has told the defender that the Iraq game is now history and Abbas said: "We need to forget that match and focus on beating Iran to compensate for the loss and also because it is crucial for us."

With less than 180 seconds to go against Iraq, Abbas stretched out a leg to block a Younus Mahmood cross, but the ball deflected off his toes and trickled into the net.

He sank to the ground, clutching his face in shock as the reality of what had just happened sunk in. It was a massive blow to the UAE's hopes of qualifying for the second round of the Asian Cup and left Abbas crestfallen.

"I was shattered," Abbas, who had put in a solid performance on the left side of defence before that unfortunate moment.

"I just did not want to get up. I just did not have the courage to face my teammates or show my face to the UAE fans.

"It was a really difficult moment, but my teammates and coaching staff were really helpful.

" They told me that this is football and such things happen to every player.

"They said we win as a team and we lose as a team. But it is still difficult for me and I want to apologise to the fans for the mistake, which put to waste the great effort of the team during the game."

As the players trudged back to the dressing room after the match, Katanec and members of his staff tried to console Abbas and his teammates have been trying to lift his spirits since the game.

"I just told Walid to keep his head up," Katanec said.

"This is football. This happens to every player. I told him the Iraq game is the past now and he should close that chapter and focus on the game ahead.

"We have an important match coming up and there is still hope for us."

The UAE meet Iran in their final group game tomorrow and need to beat the three-time champions, who have already qualified, by a two-goal margin and hope that North Korea defeat Iraq, the defending champions, by no more than one goal. That is the simplest calculation of their route through.

"The one point against Iraq would have been really great," Abbas said.

He added: "So while we are all sorry about the loss because we feel it was a cruel result, crying over it will not help the team.

"We have played well in both the matches, but have been unlucky. Let's hope the luck will turn. There is no shortage of motivation."

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