(MENAFN- The Peninsula) By Ayeni Olusegun | The Peninsula
Doha: Syria have snuck up to become the tournament's dark horses in the group stage of the FIFA Arab Cup, having claimed the most high-profile upset so far. The Qasioun Eagles stunned North African giants Tunisia 2-0 to set themselves for a potential spot in the quarter-finals if they beat Mauritania at the Al Janoub Stadium today.
Mathematically, Mauritania's chances of qualifying are slim, having conceded six goals and have managed only one. But a big win over Syria, depending on Tunisia losing to the UAE, could throw open Group B, which has become the most unpredictable in the tournament so far.
Syria had failed to win in their last six matches before the Arab Cup, and the win over the much-fancied Tunisia would have given them a boost with Swedish-born forward Oliver Kass Kawo at the heart of the team's attack.
Speaking ahead of the game, Tita Valeriu stressed that it would not be easy to defeat Mauritania especially considering how they played against the UAE. However, the Romanian said his side understands only a win over their opponents would secure a much-coveted last-eight spot.
“We are, of course, happy with the victory against Tunisia, but I am really not comfortable with the way we played, especially in the second half, because Tunisia had more possession despite the red card. We were supposed to be in control with the advantage we had,” Valeriu said.
Meanwhile, the team will be boosted by the arrival of energetic forward Mahmoud Al Mawas. Valeriu said the former Umm Salal of Qatar star would be assessed before deciding on his participation.
“He is a player who can help us, but I have not yet decided whether I will involve him from the beginning or later in the match. However, I am happy with the players' determination and that they carried out my instructions. The goal is to continue to play with the same commitment and achieve victory over Mauritania to qualify for the quarter-finals.”
On the other hand, Mauritania coach Didier Gomes Da Rosa said the Lions of Chinguetti want to finish the tournament on a high note. The French coach, only in his third match at the helm, said,“We are outside the qualification possibilities, but we want to present a good image in the last match to make a good impression. We are optimistic that the players will do their best because the tournament is part of our preparations for the African Cup of Nations.”
Though Mauritania lost heavily in their opener, they showed great spirit and fought hard against the UAE, losing only in additional time.
“There were some positives in our last match against the UAE. We conceded a late goal, but the result could have been better.”
On the Syrian team, Da Rosa said,“They are playing to qualify after beating Tunisia. I think that the early goal helped the Syrians. For us, we will make some changes to give all the players an opportunity, but I am confident the players would give their best.”
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