UAE team participate in a training session for the AFC Asian Cup
UAE team participate in a training session for the AFC Asian Cup match at Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: UAE FA

Dubai: The President of the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) is convinced the country will be among the top contenders heading into the second round of qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup Qatar and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

The draw was held at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday with the 40 participating teams divided into eight groups of five each. The teams will play each other in a double round-robin format starting September 5 till June 9, 2020. Among those present at the draw ceremony was Fifa Director of Competitions, Christian Unger, along with Australian legend and former Jamshedpur FC player Tim Cahill.

Group G has a Southeast Asian flavour as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia go head to head with the UAE. “The UAE is always one of the favourites at any competition simply because we have a team that we can rely on. We gave a good account of ourselves during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and I am confident this team will deliver once again,” Galita told Gulf News.

“We have a world-class coach with a set of players who are a blend between experience and youth. We are confident the coach [Bert van Marwijk] will be able to bring out the best from this team,” he added.

2022 Fifa World Cup hosts Qatar have been drawn in Group E alongside Bangladesh, Oman, India and Afghanistan in their bid to defend the AFC Asian Cup they won earlier this year, while Saudi Arabia — who defeated Egypt 2-1 to end their 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign on a high — will face Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen and Singapore in Group D.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up will advance to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals and the final round of qualifying for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022. However, should Qatar win their group, the seven other group winners and five best second-placed sides will advance to the final round of qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The next best 24 teams from the second round of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining 12 slots in the 24-team AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

The UAE squad will continue their training in Salzburg, Austria under new Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, till July 22.

The Draw:

Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam

Group B: Australia, Jordan, Taiwan, Kuwait, Nepal

Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia

Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore

Group E: Qatar, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh

Group F: Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia

Group G: UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia

Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka.