I'm very proud of the team, 
says UAE coach Van Marwijk

UAE players celebrate their second goal against Vietnam. (Photo by M. Sajjad)
UAE players celebrate their second goal against Vietnam. (Photo by M. Sajjad)

Dubai - The UAE will now battle with 11 other teams for the four Asian slots at the 2022 Fifa World Cup



by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 16 Jun 2021, 6:59 PM

Bert van Marwijk, the UAE head coach, said he could not have been happier after the team turned their fortunes around in stunning fashion, jumping from fourth place to the first in Group G to reach the final round of the AFC World Cup qualifiers.

Facing a must-win situation in their last four Group G games after the pandemic-hit qualifiers resumed in Dubai on June 3, the UAE grew from strength to strength, producing one impressive performance after another as they scripted four victories (4-0 against Malaysia, 3-1 against Thailand, 5-0 against Indonesia and 3-2 against Vietnam) to book their berth in the 12-team third round as a group winner.

“From the beginning I said, it will not be an easy task, we had to win four matches to qualify, I am very proud of my team and happy because we did it, I believe this team has good future,” Van Marwijk said after the UAE’s thrilling win over Vietnam at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Tuesday.

“In every game they showed a very high level of football. And in every game we were better than the previous one. They played very good, exactly the way I like to play, and made every body proud.”

Until the defensive lapses allowed Vietnam to score two late goals, the UAE completely outplayed their tricky opponents on Tuesday, bossing the midfield and creating a myriad opportunities in the final third.

But the two late Vietnam goals did leave a sour taste in the mouth.

“I am very happy with the team performance, we had the chance to score more goals during the match, but I am not satisfied with the last minutes, and the two mistakes cost us two goals,” admitted Van Marwijk.

The 69-year-old coach also said that the team’s success in reviving the fortunes after having found themselves in a precarious position was the result of the hard work the players had put in in the last six months.

The UAE will now battle with 11 other teams — Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Australia, Lebanon and Syria — for the four Asian slots at the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The 12 teams will be divided into two groups of six. The top two from each group will qualify for the World Cup, while the two third-placed teams will be locked in a play-off battle.

The winner of the play-off battle will then advance to the inter-confederation play-off.

Meanwhile, star striker Ali Mabkhout, the top-scorer in the qualifying campaign with 11 goals, said positive results in the last couple of weeks would not have been possible without the support of everyone involved with the UAE Football Association.

“We are very happy to qualify (for the final round) after a long and hard journey during which everyone made great efforts, the UAE Football Association headed by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, who provided an ideal preparation for the team, and the technical staff led by Marvik who brought the team back to the road,” said Mabkhout.

And Ali Salmeen, who scored the first goal in the 3-2 win over Vietnam on Tuesday, thanked the fans for their support during the last four matches in Dubai.

“This achievement is a very small gift to the fans of the UAE, who were always behind the team, supporting and encouraging us to give the best,” Ali Salmeen said.

“Now we promise to fight in the final round and do our best.”

FINAL ROUNDS OF WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Who have qualified for the third round?

UAE, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Australia, Lebanon and Syria

Third round format

12 teams will be divided into two groups of six teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches.

The top two teams of each group will qualify for the World Cup, and the third-placed teams will advance to the fourth round.

Fourth round

The two third-placed teams from the third round will play home and away over two legs. The winner will advance to the inter-confederation play-offs.


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