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UAE star striker Matar battling to be fit for Asian Cup

1 July 2007 18:40

SINGAPORE (AFP) - United Arab Emirates star striker Ismail Matar is battling against time to be fit for the upcoming Asian Cup, and admits his side have problems to iron out before being ready.

Matar, who top-scored for Bruno Metsu's side in January's victorious Gulf Cup campaign, has endured a gruelling domestic season with Al Wahda and is not happy with the way he is playing.

"I am not happy with my performance in the friendly matches we played against Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain," he told reporters, despite scoring two goals against Malaysia and Bahrain.

"I don't feel that I am fully ready to take part in the finals but I have hope that in the remaining period of the training camp I will gain most of my physical and technical capabilities."

The UAE have been preparing for the tournament in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before heading to Hanoi where they are grouped with defending champions Japan, Asian Games gold medallists Qatar and hosts Vietnam.

Matar scored five goals in as many matches in the Gulf Cup, including the one that sealed a 1-0 win over Oman in the final, and he is a key part of Metsu's team.

"I feel that the team need more work to reach the extent which will make everyone confident of achieving good results in the finals," added the 24-year-old.

"I am not being pessimistic. I'm sure that by the end of the training camp we will be a better side than at the moment."

The UAE have an erratic Asian Cup record since their debut in 1980.

They reached the semi-finals in 1992 and narrowly missed the Cup in 1996 by losing a penalty shoot-out to Saudi Arabia in the final.

After failing to qualify in 2000, they finished bottom of their group three years ago in China.

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