22.01.2015 09:12 h

'Amoory' in spotlight as Japan, UAE clash

Slick playmaker Omar Abdulrahman can stake his claim for a big-money move to Europe when the UAE face Japan on Friday in an Asian Cup quarter-final which threatens to be a potential banana skin for the holders.

The mop-top Emirati is the heartbeat of Mahdi Ali's highly impressive UAE, who come up against a fast and powerful Japan side boasting the biggest names in Asian football.

Reports have linked Abdulrahman, known as "Amoory", to English champions Manchester City -- whose owners are from Abu Dhabi, where he currently plays for Al Ain.

Another bravura performance against the four-time Asian champions would only raise expectations that the 23-year-old was bound for the heights of European club football.

"We're not thinking about Manchester City or any player playing abroad at this moment," UAE coach Ali told journalists on Thursday.

"For us of course it would be very good to see our player playing in Europe. He has a good future and he's a talented player. We hope that we see him in Europe very soon."

UAE's quick-passing game, with Abdulrahman feeding prolific strikers Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil, has won wide praise with Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz one of their admirers.

"They've played together for many years, since under 17 -- some of the players could play with each other with their eyes closed," said the former Portugal, Real Madrid boss, who has also had a spell in charge of the UAE.

"They know exactly where the others are, what they do, what they can expect. It's a beautiful thing to see."

UAE only narrowly came off second best to Iran, the three-time Asian champions, in their final Group C clash when Reza Ghoochannejhad scored in injury time for a 1-0 win.

However, they will still start as underdogs in Sydney against Japan, who swept through Group D with uncomplicated wins against Palestine, Iraq and Jordan.

Driving force Keisuke Honda is in determined mood, having netted in each game, and there is hope for Shinji Kagawa's spluttering form after he finally scored on Tuesday against Jordan.

Coach Javier Aguirre has shown no sign of being unsettled by match-fixing claims dating back to his time as manager of Zaragoza, but there may be concerns over his players' durability.

Aguirre has used the same starting eleven for all three games so far, meaning they are going into their fourth match in 12 days -- and the possibility of a draining 30 minutes of extra time.

The outspoken Honda has already hit out at the tournament schedule, but captain Makoto Hasebe insisted Japan had enough strength in depth to cope.

"I believe it's important to maintain stability throughout the squad and in our play," said the skipper. "But we have faith in our substitutes and that allows us to keep control of games."