Dubai: The UAE will be up for a do-or-die battle against Malaysia in the first half of October after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced the proposed match dates for the remaining matches of the Qatar 2022 World Cup and China 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
The qualifiers were originally scheduled to take place in March and June, but could not follow the set dates due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, the AFC, in consultation with world governing body Fifa, announced the new qualifying dates with the UAE hosting Malaysia in their Group G match on October 8, while Thailand take on Indonesia the same day. The times for the matches are yet to be finalised.
Immediately after their match against Malaysia, the UAE will have to depart to play bottom-placed Indonesia on October 13 and then have nearly one month of further preparations before their next home fixture against Thailand on November 12, before signing off with their last home encounter against Vietnam on November 17.
Currently, Vietnam are in the driver’s seat in Group G as they hold a two-point lead over Malaysia in a fascinating group where five points separate the top four teams. Park Hang-seo’s side hold top spot with 11 points, with Malaysia on nine and Thailand a further point behind.
However, a win against the Malaysians on October 8 could see a significant change as the UAE, who are fourth in the group with six points, trying to fight their way back. Secondly, the 1990 Fifa World Cup qualifiers still have an extra game in hand over the teams above them and a home win against Malaysia will put them back into the reckoning.
The UAE Football Association (UAEFA) is yet to name a successor to Serbian Ivan Jovanovic who parted ways by mutual consent after the coronavirus pandemic broke in March. Since then, a number of high-profile names have been linked for the UAE coach’s position, including Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic, Zoran Mamic and Cosmin Olaroiu — all with Al Ain at some point of their careers — along with local talents like Abdul Aziz Al Anbari and Mahdi Ali.
The latest decision by the AFC has been taken with a view to completing the second round of qualifying for the World Cup and Asian Cup by November 2020 and begin round March 2021 match dates on the FIFA International Calendar.
The AFC has also assured that they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the safety and well-being of all teams, officials, fans and stakeholders as well as Government travel and medical restrictions and will notify all parties should there be a need to reassess the match schedules due to the ever-evolving impact of the pandemic.
UAE v Malaysia
Thailand v Indonesia
Malaysia v Vietnam
Indonesia v UAE
UAE v Thailand
Vietnam v Indonesia
Thailand v Malaysia
UAE v Vietnam