The UAE stunned South Korea 1-0 to keep their bid to reach the Qatar 2022 World Cup alive. The victory over already-qualified Korea, coupled with Iraq’s 1-1 draw with Syria meant that Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side finished third in the AFC third round Group A on 12 points behind table-toppers Iran and the Koreans. Iraq had to settle for fourth and their dreams are dashed.
The UAE — ranked 69th in the world — rocked the world No. 29 team at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai when Harib Abdalla Suhail struck midway through the second half, before the home side — roared on by a healthy crowd — held on for three vital and famous points.
Asian sides Iran, Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia have already booked their places at the World Cup finals in Qatar in November, and the final fight is now to see who will join them.
The UAE — who qualified for Italia 90 for their one and only appearance at the World Cup finals — now face Australia, the third-placed team in Group B, with the winners of that clash facing the fifth-placed team in Conmebol qualifying from South America. That was Peru before the final round of qualifiers early on Wednesday morning UAE time.
Abdullah, making his first start for the UAE full national senior side - stepping in for suspended goal machine Ali Mabkhout - kept the coolest head on the pitch when it mattered most as he broke free and slotted past Jo Hyeon-Woo in the South Korea goal.
“I am so happy,” Abdullah said. “I want to thank the players, the coach, the administration, and also the fans for the way they supported our team. We deserve these three points and to be in the play-off."
Arruabarrena added: “Anyone who knows me from my time at Al Wasl or Shahab Al Ahli knows I always give chances to young players. If they are ready, they have to participate. I don’t care about the age of the player. The main thing for me is the desire, effort and performance of the player.”
Earlier, Iran defeated Group A bottom side Jordan 2-0.
Japan’s suffered a bit of a blip as they brought the curtain down on their qualifying campaign in Group B.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side had already qualified for Qatar thanks to a win over Australia last week, but needed a equaliser from defender Maya Yoshida in the second half goal to rescue a 1-1 draw with a stubborn Vietnam side at Saitama Stadium.
Nguyen Thanh Binh’s header had given the visitors the lead.