Dubai: The UAE head into a tricky tie in Vietnam on Thursday evening with their 2022 World Cup qualifying mission in a precarious position.
Head coach Bert van Marwijk has put pressure on his men to produce a result in Hanoi after they fell to Thailand 2-1 in their last outing — a result that left them third in Group G after three games, one point behind both the Thais and the Vietnamese.
Van Marwijk expressed his frustration after the loss at the Thammasat Stadium in Rangsit last month, saying he felt “sad” as his men could — and should — have won the game.
However, they are now playing catch up and they will be looking for a more positive outcome on Thursday if they are to stay on track to achieve their dream of reaching the World Cup finals in 2022. Firstly, they will need to steady their ship just to get through this round and into the final group stage of qualifying.
The UAE have failed to reach the showpiece event since their bow at Italia ’90 and are desperate to get back on the big stage. UAE striker Ahmed Khalil believes they can turn things around.
“We’ve played three games and could’ve been top of the group, but the defeat to Thailand taught us a lesson. We have to work harder to win the upcoming games to progress to the final round,” he told Fifa.com.
“Our group is tough, just like all the other ones in this round. Every team has dropped points, but it’s important now not to lose any more. I think the schedule is in our favour as three of our [remaining five] games are at home, where we’ll have massive support from our fans. Progressing to the next round is our first target but 2022 is our main goal.”
The 28-year-old Khalil is a key component of Van Marwijk’s squad, alongside fellow frontman Ali Mabkhout and playmaker Omar Abdul Rahman. While Khalil and Mabkhout continue to fire up front for club and country, there have been some concerns over the form of Abdul Rahman, as he has struggled to return to his usual brilliant self since his he came back from a year-long ACL injury absence.
Where better to announce his return to form and win back his place in the hearts of the UAe faithful that in a vital match in Hanoi?
UAE to play in Gulf Cup
The UAE has accepted an invitation to play in the Gulf Cup, the UAE FA announced, which takes place in Doha from November 24 to December 6.
Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait will also take part in the competition, will the fixtures to be announced after the draw is made.
The UAE have won the tile twice and were defeated by Oman on penalties in the final in the most recent edition in Kuwait.