Abu Dhabi: United Arab Emirates midfielder Khalfan Mubarak believes Thursday’s 2-0 win over a resilient India at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 could well be a sign of things to come for Alberto Zaccheroni’s talented side.
After drawing 1-1 with Bahrain in their Group A opener, a neat finish from Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout's late strike saw the 1996 runners-up soar to the top of the standings with their final group stage game against Thailand still to come on Monday.
Although the UAE are not assured of a place in the Round of 16 just yet, Mubarak is adamant that the victory over India will stand the Emiratis in good stead as they seek to, at least, emulate their third-place finish at the tournament’s 2015 edition in Australia.
"We are very grateful for the win, but I must say hard luck to India as they played a great game,” declared the 23-year-old Al Jazira star.
"Our first game was the competition’s opening match and I felt the players were a little nervous.
“However, scoring as we did against India has had a very positive effect on the team, one which will give us added motivation for the matches we have to come.
“We truly hope that the victory is a sign of things to come. This is absolutely the start for us.”
Group A Matchday 2: India vs UAE
Over 43,000 spectators witnessed the UAE’s success at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium, with the overwhelming majority cheering for Mubarak and his teammates – a fact not lost on a grateful Mubarak.
“The three points are, of course, the team’s, but I would like to dedicate the success to the fans, as it is they who really deserve it,” he said.
"We now hope to achieve even more good results in the coming matches in order to make our supports even happier and to encourage more fans to come to the stadium.”