Dubai: The UAE stumbled in their sternest test to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals as they came up short on the road against Thailand at the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum.
Bert Van Marwijk came in with an edict to qualify for Qatar and the 2023 ACF Asian Cup, but instead he will find his team in third place in Group G when the dust settles on this recent spate of international bouts.
While all three points may have been ambitious, Van Marwijk would have expected more as two cheap goals saw the men in white lose 2-1 to Thailand.
The visitors got off to a dreadful start as Teerasil Dangda was on hand to open the scoring on 26 minutes, not only sending the home fans into raptures but letting the UAE know they were up against it in a match to claim outright top spot in Group G.
While still looking a bit disjointed, the UAE were back on level terms with the last kick of the first half. Ali Mabkhout somehow managed to restore parity as the Al Jazira stalker did what he does best by getting on the end of a superb delivery and ensured they went up the tunnel at 1-1.
However, the UAE found themselves behind again as Eakkanit Punya struck for Thailand just six minutes after the restart. Frustration began to creep into the UAE ranks with Mabkhout and Mohammad Al Menhali finding their names in the book of referee — the catchily named Sri Lankan Hettikankanamge Chrishantha Dilan Perera — as Van Marwijk looked at the clock hoping for an equaliser.
Try as they might, the tourists — and that’s what they looked like at times — could not find an equaliser.
The ineffectual Omar Abdul Rahman was switched for Ahmad Khalil inside the final 20 minutes, but he was just as disappointing. Van Warwick will need a big rethink if the UAE are to get to the top.
In the other result in Group G, there was no upset as Vietnam defeated Indonesia 3-1 in Jakarta. That result sunk the UAE to third in the standings on six points, one behind both Thailand and Vietnam after three games.
Van Marwijk will hope for better results at home to re-establish the hot favourites at the top of the table.
While arguably their toughest match is behind them, a loss will make the future ties all the more difficult and crucial for the UAE.
In Taipei, Australia ran riot in a 7-1 demolition of Taiwan to continue their runaway start to qualifying campaign. Adam Taggart, Jackson Irvine and defender Harry Souttar all scored twice along with Jamie Maclaren’s solitary strike as the Socceroos solidified their lead of Asia’s Group B.
Australia, who have already had 3-0 and 5-0 wins over Kuwait and Nepal, conceded their first goal of the qualifying campaign through Chen Yi-wei’s 21st-minute header.
But the Aussies were already two goals to the good by then after Taggart scored in the 12th and 19th minutes — his first goals for the Socceroos in six years.
“We were looking to get crosses in the box, especially early when they weren’t set, and they worked a couple of times and we got some goals in there,” Taggart said after the match.
— With inputs from agencies
Mongolia 1 Kyrgyz Republic 2
Korea DPR 0 Korea Republic 0
Cambodia 0 Iraq 4
Indonesia 1 Vietnam 3
Chinese Taipei 1 Australia 7
Singapore 1 Uzbekistan 3
Thailand 2 UAE 1
Philippines 0 China PR 0
Tajikistan 0 Japan 3