29.01.2015 08:43 h

UAE golden generation eye bronze - and World Cup

United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali Thursday said his team were hopeful of ending a nearly 30-year absence from the World Cup after their run to the Asian Cup's last four.

Playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and goal ace Ali Mabkhout propelled UAE to their first Asian semi-finals since 1996, raising hopes for their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

"There is a good chance we can qualify for Russia (2018)," Ali told reporters ahead of Friday's third-place play-off with Iraq in Newcastle.

"I think we have a good generation, a young team and we can perform well," the coach added.

UAE have only appeared at one World Cup: Italy in 1990, when they lost all three group games to Colombia, now-defunct Yugoslavia and eventual winners West Germany.

With 2018 World Cup qualifying starting this year, Abdulrahman and powerful forward Ahmed Khalil are only 23, while Mabkhout, the tournament's joint top-scorer, is 24.

The attractive UAE side lost narrowly to Iran in Group C before they stunned holders Japan in the quarter-finals, and went down 2-0 to hosts Australia in the semis on Tuesday.

"In this tournament we played against three teams who qualified for the last World Cup... we played Iran, Japan and Australia and we played well in those three games," Ali said.

"There was not a big gap between them and us, and that is a sign that we have a chance of qualifying for the next World Cup."