UAE eye win over Australia to 
move a step closer to Fifa World Cup

The UAE will face Australia in the World Cup playoff tonight (10 pm UAE Time)

The UAE players during a training session in Doha. (UAEFA Twitter)
The UAE players during a training session in Doha. (UAEFA Twitter)

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 7 Jun 2022, 1:01 AM

Having experienced a roller-coaster ride in the qualifiers, the UAE are now just two wins away from entering the World Cup.

Australia will be their first hurdle in Doha on Tuesday night.

The winner of this Asian playoff will face Peru in an inter-continental playoff on June 13 in Doha, for a place in the Qatar World Cup (November 21-December 18).

Since making their only World Cup appearance in 1990, The Whites have never come this close to qualifying for the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet.

The Australians, on the hand, are hugely experienced when it comes to playing in the World Cups — the Socceroos have featured in all four previous editions (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018) of the event.

But Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s UAE are confident of their chances against Australia, with their stirring victory over the already-qualified South Korea, an Asian giant, last March boosting the morale of the players.

Ali Mabkhout key

The Whites’ fortunes in the opposition half will rest on Ali Mabkhout, the team’s prolific striker.

With 80 goals from 104 matches, the 31-year-old striker sits in third place on the list of highest scorers among active players — behind only football’s two most iconic stars, Cristiano Ronaldo (117 goals from 188 matches) and Lionel Messi (86 goals from 162 matches).

“Being just 180 minutes away from a World Cup is an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often,” Ali Mabkhout told ahead of the team’s do-or-die clash in Doha.

“Our fate is in our own hands, so we’re not relying on other results to go our way. Our immediate focus is on the Australia match, and we’ll give it our all. Hopefully, luck will be on our side.”

Ali Mabkhout will be seeking inspiration from Adnan Al Talyani, the legendary Emirati striker whose goal against South Korea in the decisive qualifier had famously earned the UAE a place in the 1990 World Cup.

“Adnan Al Talyani will always be a historic name in Emirati football. If I manage to replicate what he did and lead the team to a World Cup, I’ll be happy. If another player scores and we qualify, great,” Ali Mabkhout said.

“We’re all hoping to represent the Emirates in a tournament as prestigious as the World Cup. This was also the aim for Adnan and his colleagues at that time, and nothing has changed for us.”

Aussie slump

What has changed quite dramatically is the performance level of Australia, the UAE’s opponents tonight.

Having set a Fifa record of 11 straight wins in the Asian World Cup qualifiers last October, the Australians suffered a stunning collapse.

Graham Arnold’s team only won one of their next seven games and eventually had to settle for a playoff against the UAE with a third-place finish in their group behind Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The last time the two teams locked horns, it was the UAE that emerged the winner on the back of Ali Mabkhout’s second-half goal in the 2019 Asian Cup quarterfinal.

A sea of white-clad supporters packed the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain to witness the UAE victory over Australia that night.

Now with thousands of UAE fans travelling to the Qatari capital to support the team, The Whites will be counting on their 12th man at the Al Rayyan Stadium tonight.

“Indeed, the role of the national team’s fans is indispensable. We are very happy that a lot of our fans will be at the stadium to support us,” said UAE defender Walid Abbas.

“Their presence will boost our confidence and inspire us to play our best football on the field.”

The Whites certainly need to be at their absolute best tonight to move a step closer to the elusive World Cup.

All you need to know

What: World Cup playoff between UAE and Australia in Doha

When: 10 pm UAE Time, Tuesday

Live telecast: BeIN SPORTS

What are UAE’s chances?

If UAE beat Australia in the Asian playoff on Tuesday, they will play Peru in an inter-continental playoff in Doha on June 13. But if the UAE lose, they will be knocked out of the World Cup race and Australia will book their place in the inter-continental playoff against Peru. The winner of the inter-continental playoff will qualify for the Qatar World Cup.

Fifa rankings:

Australia 42

UAE 68

Previous encounter between UAE and Australia

In the last competitive game between the two teams, the UAE beat Australia 1-0 in the 2019 Asian Cup

What they said

Our fate is in our own hands. Our immediate focus is on the Australia match, and we’ll give it our all. Hopefully, luck will be on our side

Ali Mabkhout, UAE striker

It’s a big game and we are right up for it. We are just taking it as a game that we need to prepare for and to go and win, no matter what

Riley McGree, Australian midfielder

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