Dubai: The UAE are on the verge of making it to the 2022 Qatar World Cup but they must first navigate their way past Australia tomorrow night in a huge AFC Asian Qualifiers clash at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Doha.
The UAE’s only World Cup appearance to date came back in 1990 but the team will be confident of a positive result as recent form is on their side. They beat the Socceroos 1-0 the last time they met in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in 2019.
Even though they are 26 places below Australia at 42 in the FIFA rankings, an upset is possible. If they can see off the Aussies then they face an inter-continental playoff against Peru with the winners booking their tickets to the finals in Qatar in November.
The UAE – who claimed third spot in their group ahead of Iraq to reach the playoff – won their last clash against Graham Arnold’s men but the previous five results have not been good. They have lost three and drawn two and if tomorrow’s massive clash is level after 90 minutes then the tie will head into extra time. And it could even go to penalties to decide a winner.
The Aussies have made it to every World Cup since 2006 and are aiming to make it a fifth consecutive appearance on the world’s biggest stage. They have plenty of experience in World Cup playoffs and know how to handle the tense situation but they will be missing star man Tom Rogic and that could prove key.
UAE’s Argentine coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena recalled former Asian player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman to his squad for the match. If he can show those flashes of skill then the UAE will have a fighting chance. They will be backed by a majority of the crowd too after the UAE Football Association bought 5,000 tickets to be distributed to UAE fans for free.
“We know the coming match against Australia will not be easy, but we are waiting for the great support from our fans, because their presence is the most important motivating factor,” midfielder Abdullah Ramadan was quoted as saying. “It raises morale and increases the ambition and enthusiasm in the hearts of the players during the next match.”
Lively winger Ali Saleh will play a key role tomorrow and if he and veteran striker Ali Mabkhout shine the UAE will be on the brink of reaching a first World Cup in over three decades. If they then see off Peru they will join a group featuring defending champions France along with Denmark and Tunisia.
When: Tuesday 7 July 2022.
Kick-off: 10pm UAE time.