December 29, 2018 / 9:03 AM / 6 months ago

Soccer-Big stage no problem for Asian Cup debutants Yemen: asst coach

    By Michael Kahn
    Jan 6 (Reuters) - Yemen will be making their Asian Cup debut
when they face three-times champions Iran on Monday and while
the players are set to be thrust into the limelight like never
before the team's assistant coach is confident stage fright will
not be an issue.
    Milos Brozek told Reuters that Yemen, the tournament's
lowest-ranked national team at No. 135, had nothing to lose when
they face the highly fancied Iranians in Abu Dhabi.
    "Sometimes if you are somewhere for the first time you don't
really realize just how big it is," the Czech said in a
telephone interview. 
    "We will show our best without any problems with nerves."
    The path to the 24-team competition was an unlikely one for
a nation embroiled in a nearly four-year long war that has
killed more than 10,000 people and triggered the world’s most
urgent humanitarian crisis with the country on the brink of
    Their journey has been a rare source of good news for both
the country and its players, who play abroad because the war has
forced the suspension of the national league.
    "We have players from all over Yemen," Brozek said.
"Sometimes we talk with the players about the conflict but we
keep the focus on football.
    "We have had big support from Yemeni supporters around the
Gulf and we see how the people support the players."
    It has not been easy for Brozek and Slovak head coach Jan
Kocian, who only took over at the end of October. 
    The pair had little time to experiment with tactics and
formations and instead have had to focus on simply getting to
know what the players could do, Brozek said.
    And with most of the team scattered around the Gulf,
logistical issues such as contacting players and clubs to get
them to training camps gobbled up time, he added.
    "It was a very short time to know everything and to collect
the players," Brozek said. 
    "Playing-wise there was no time to try different systems. We
are not in a position to switch from system to system because we
have not had time to test different ones."
    The Czech and Slovak coaches have guided the team to three
narrow pre-tournament warm-up losses to Saudi Arabia, United
Arab Emirates and Syria, matches that have offered a glimmer of
hope the team will not be a walkover at the Asian Cup.
    But Brozek said whatever happens at the competition -- where
the Yemenis also face Iraq on Jan. 12 and Vietnam on Jan. 16 in
Group D -- the team led by former Slovak national team coach
Kocian would be ready.
    "The players are not afraid," he said. "They are fighters
and want to represent their country the best way they can.

 (Editing by Peter Rutherford
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