UAE's fans return to the stadium this week for the World Cup qualifier against Lebanon Image Credit: REUTERS

The UAE resume their quest to reach the World Cup finals in Qatar next year as they take on Lebanon at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Thursday, and will begin their final qualifying round in Group A with a major boost — the fans are back.

Bert van Marwijk’s men get up and running against Lebanon on September 2 before they take on Syria in Jordan five days later.

Organisers and Government officials have approved Thursday’s game against Lebanon in Dubai to be open to the public, with the Zabeel Stadium limited to 60 per cent capacity in accordance with national Covid-19 guidelines.

The UAE are on a high having stormed through the second round of qualifying to top their group and have now won six games in a row — and UAE captain Walid Abbas is delighted to have the supporters there to roar them on and keep up the momentum with sterner tasks ahead in a group that includes South Korea, Iraq, Iran — along with Syria and Lebanon.

“The fans have always been with us, even when they are not present in the stadium,” said Abbas. “Now they can be there in person and we are fully confident they will get behind the players. For our part, we will give everything we have to make everyone happy, and will spare no effort.”

The UAE national team gathered in Dubai over the weekend to begin training following the second round of the Arabian Gulf League and goalkeeper Ali Kasheif is in confident mood before the final push begins. The top two teams in each of the two groups book a place at Qatar 2022, while the third-placed teams must go through another play-off, so a flying start is crucial for the UAE against Lebanon.

“The task will not be easy, because the group includes strong teams, which means there are many difficult matches awaiting us,” Kasheif said. “Our focus at the moment is on the Lebanon match, then the match against Syria, and then we will deal with each match separately. We have to work on getting points and progress, from one game to the next, to reach our goal.”