UAE's Asian Cup adventure ends with boos and bare feet

Abu Dhabi (AFP) –


United Arab Emirates fans vented their anger on Tuesday as they slumped to an embarrassing Asian Cup defeat by bitter Gulf rivals Qatar -- in a blizzard of shoes, boos and water bottles.

Projectiles rained down as the hosts crashed to a 4-0 loss in the semi-finals at a sold-out, 42,000-capacity Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium which was nearly unanimously behind the hosts.

A ticket giveaway for Emiratis only kept pro-Qatar fans down to a few dozen -- especially as Qataris are largely barred from UAE due to the ongoing Gulf blockade.

With tensions high between the two countries, ear-splitting boos drowned out the Qatari anthem and optimistic fans displayed the word, "Final" in giant letters before kick-off.

But the Qataris were a class apart and they were ahead after 22 minutes when UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa let Boualem Khoukhi's hopeful shot slip through his fingers.

Almoez Ali then scored a record-equalling eighth goal of the tournament -- prompting angry fans to hurl shoes as he celebrated.

Bottles also crashed on to the pitch throughout the game, with one hitting the crossbar behind Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb and Salem Al-Hajri struck by an object.

"The team didn't show anything, wasn't up to speed. The formation was bad, neither the team had no soul, nor any of the players," said Abdallah Mohammad as he trudged away.

"The tactics were wrong, the coach did nothing, all the changes were wrong. Seeing that, I don't think we even deserved to be in the semi-finals."

Abdel Rahman said: "We're really angry with the team. They performed well, but we hope they will succeed in the future.

"Defeat is not a problem, the important thing is that they learn from their mistakes. They weren't organising their attacks!"

With coach Alberto Zaccheroni set to depart what was already an ageing team, UAE can expect big changes before qualifying for the 2022 World Cup -- which will be held in Qatar.

But first, they will hope Felix Sanchez's exciting side don't inflict the ultimate embarrassment of lifting the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi by beating Japan on Friday.