A surprisingly composed Ali congratulated his victorious UAE side after their shock win against Japan on Friday night, but urged his team to maintain their focus as they look toward what will be a climactic semifinal against Australia.
The West Asian side held Japan to one goal from 35 shots over 120 minutes before winning 5-4 in penalty kicks.
“[Before the match] I said that you don’t have to play nice football to win the game, sometimes you have to play with your heart,” Ali told reporters after the late encounter at Stadium Australia. “Today we worked very hard to win this game.
“Japan were a strong team, very well organised, they played good football, but today our team also played well.”
The former Emirates midfielder, who coached the country to their first Olympics appearance in 2012, put particular emphasis on Omar Abdulrahman’s successful panenka against Eiji Kawashima, which came moments after AC Milan star Keisuke Honda missed his kick for Japan.
“It was a fantastic penalty,” the manager exclaimed, “I think this was good because the first PK made [Kawashima’s] motivation go down and after that he was stuck in the goal.
“But I told [Omar] not to do it again because my heart was pounding.”
After downing the defending Asian champions, Emirati will be looking to record another upset against hosts Australia on January 27 in Newcastle.
“Playing against Australia in Australia will also be very tough, but we just finished the game now and we only have [three] days to recover,” Ali said. “We have to gather [our energies] again and do our job and play good football in the next match.”