Asian Cup: UAE's Mabkhout eyes top-scorer prize with further goals in 3rd-place play-off

UAE's Ali Mabkhout fights for the ball with Australia's Jason Davidson (left), Mile Jedinak (2nd right) and Matthew Spiranovic (right) during their Asian Cup semi-final soccer match at the Newcastle Stadium in Newcastle on Jan 27, 2015. -- PHOTO: REU
UAE's Ali Mabkhout fights for the ball with Australia's Jason Davidson (left), Mile Jedinak (2nd right) and Matthew Spiranovic (right) during their Asian Cup semi-final soccer match at the Newcastle Stadium in Newcastle on Jan 27, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEWCASTLE, Australia (AFP) - Sharpshooter Ali Mabkhout can win a tight race for the Asian Cup's golden boot when the United Arab Emirates face Iraq for the consolation prize of finishing third on Friday.

The UAE went down 2-0 to Australia this week and Iraq lost by the same scoreline to South Korea as their dreams of Asian Cup glory were shattered in the semi-finals.

Both teams must now pick themselves up for an unwanted third-place play-off in Newcastle though Mabkhout has more motivation than most.

Deeply in tune with playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, the striker has already grabbed four goals, placing him joint top of the scoring charts alongside Jordan's Hamza Aldaradreh.

Among his strikes are the fastest goal in Asian Cup history - after just 14 seconds against Bahrain - and the volley that put UAE 1-0 up against Japan before they shocked the holders on penalties.

Another goal against 2007 champions Iraq would take the Al Jazira marksman clear on the scorers' list and help him towards his aim of securing a big-money move to Europe.

Socceroo Tim Cahill is lurking behind Mabkhout with three goals while South Korea's Son Heung Min and Lee Jeong Hyeop both have two ahead of Saturday's final in Sydney.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali said he would rest some players but not Mabkhout, who top-scored at November's Gulf Cup and in Asian Cup qualification.

But of greatest concern to Ali is that UAE, favourites to host the 2019 Asian Cup, finish third in what has been their best campaign since they were runners-up in 1996.

"This is a good opportunity to give other players a chance and to give some a rest," he said. "But Ali (Mabkhout) will play tomorrow. If he gets top scorer, it would be good for him and the team but the important thing is to win the game and go home happy."