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Hertog Backs Players to Impress for UAE at AFC Asian Cup

Abu Dhabi, 8 January 2019
Al Jazira head coach Damien Hertog has backed his star players to play an integral role for the UAE in this month’s AFC Asian Cup 2019 after the national team drew their opening match against Bahrain on Saturday.
Ali Mabkhout, Khalfan Mubarak and Fares Juma were three of the five Al Jazira players in the national squad to be involved in the hosts’ 1-1 draw over Bahrain in their Group A clash at Zayed Sports City National Stadium.
Al Jazira’s number one goalkeeper Ali Khaseif and defender Khalifa Al Hammadi are also in the squad keeping up Al Jazira’s reputation for nurturing strong homegrown talent for the national team through its academy system. 
Prolific striker Mabkhout and rising star Mubarak had a quiet game by their own standards in the Asian Cup opener, having come into the tournament on the back of some impressive displays for Al Jazira. 
Mabkhout is currently the club’s top-scorer this season after finding the net 15 times in the Arabian Gulf League, while Mubarak has eight goals and nine assists with the team sitting joint-second in the league.
And Hertog is confident the pair will show their potential over the course of this month as the UAE bid to win the Asian Cup for the first time.
“They have the skills and quality to continue their form so I expect to see that as the tournament progresses,” said Hertog, who was appointed as Al Jazira’s head coach last month. 
“They are obviously very good players, but their talent goes beyond that as they also make great decisions on the field that we have seen make a difference on regular basis this season. It gives them a lot of confidence and that spreads throughout their teammates during training sessions and games. 
“They are skilful players and will be in a good environment in the national team. They will fit in together and I think things will happen for the national team. Like everyone else, I would love to see the UAE team going far in the tournament, which would be a brilliant way to celebrate being the hosts of the Asian Cup.”
Hertog also believes his club players, whether they play or not, will certainly benefit from being part of an elite international continental tournament.
“I want the best for our players and this will give them a lot of experience,” added the Dutchman. “It also shows they have a lot of respect for their country and the UAE are showing they are very ambitious. I hope they can all play for the UAE.”
The UAE take on India in their second group match on Thursday with victory boosting their hopes of advancing to the knockouts.