UAE National Team
The UAE beat Nepal 4-0 last week Image Credit: UAEFA

UAE National Team Coach Paulo Bento is eager to finish the second stage of 2026 World Cup qualifying with a perfect record in tonight’s final Group H match against Bahrain.

The UAE made it five wins on the bounce with victory against Nepal last Thursday, with a Harib Abdulla brace and a goal apiece from Ali Saleh and Hazem Mohammed ensuring ‘The Whites’ top the group, no matter what happens at Zabeel Stadium this evening.

Khaled Tawhid and Mohammaed Al Mansoori both made their full debuts in the 4-0 thrashing of Nepal, while every member of the squad was under the age of 30.

Despite tonight’s game essentially being a dead rubber with the UAE and Bahrain already through to the next round of qualifying, Bento insists the match isn’t just for evaluating the next generation of UAE stars.

“In all the games, the main goal is to compete as well and as much as possible,” said Bento.

“This means that we should do everything we can to secure the three points and perform as well as possible and improve from the previous games.

“At the same time, if we can evaluate not just the younger players, but all the players, this is our job.

“After the game, we will analyse again and we will see how we did, but to be honest with you, I don’t know yet which starting XI we are going to use.

“We have many things to take into consideration, but if we can bring some opportunities for the young players, we will do that.

“The main goal is to compete as much as we can, try to win the game, reach three more points to get a total of 18 points, like we talked about in the beginning.

“We will try to do that, and I hope we can perform in the best possible way.”

Following tonight’s final second round qualifiers in the Asian region, the original 46 entrants will be whittled down to just 18 in the road to the 2026 World Cup in North America.

Eight of those teams will secure direct entry into the tournament following the third round of qualifying, which gets underway in September, while one other Asian representative will compete for a spot via the inter-confederation play-off.