World Cup qualifier: UAE face crunch game against Lebanon

UAE players during a training session at the Saida Municipal Stadium in Sidon, Lebanon. (UAEFA Twitter)
UAE players during a training session at the Saida Municipal Stadium in Sidon, Lebanon. (UAEFA Twitter)

Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar

By Team KT

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2021, 12:25 AM

In a desperate need to earn their first victory, UAE will face Lebanon in a crunch World Cup qualifier at the Saida Municipal Stadium in Sidon, Lebanon, on Tuesday.

Bert van Marwijk’s team have been pushed to the fifth place in the six-team Group A of the third round of the AFC World Cup qualifiers.

Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

The third-placed teams in the two groups will be locked in a playoff battle with the winner advancing to an inter-confederation playoff for a berth in the World Cup.

For UAE to get into the race for a berth in the next World Cup, they have to beat the third-placed Lebanon on Tuesday.

UAE suffered their latest setback in South Korea on Friday when the team lost 1-0 in the away game.

Van Marwijk says his players know the challenge they face is huge.

“I think everybody in our team knows what to do, that there’s a chance to play for the third place. Lebanon have five points, we have three. So I think it’s very clear,” the veteran Dutch coach said in the pre-match press conference.

Lebanon had frustrated UAE in the teams’ first clash in Dubai when The Whites were held to a goalless draw. The home team wasted several scoring opportunities in front of home fans.

“You never see exactly the same games. The first game, we didn’t play bad. We just didn’t take our chances. But the way we played was good,” Van Marwijk said.

“Now every team has played five games. Yeah, the situation is what it is. Everywhere we play we play our own game, so we will do the same tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Group A leaders Iran will aim to cement their position in the World Cup when they take on bottom-placed side Syria on Tuesday.

Syria replaced Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul with local tactician Nizar Mahrous following the conclusion of the second round of the qualifiers and have since not won a single competitive match, drawing two and losing three including a 1-0 opening day reversal against their upcoming opponents.

As a result, the Qasioun Eagles find themselves rooted to the bottom of their group — a far cry from four years earlier when they finished third and advanced to the playoff round.

Croatian Dragan Skokic, meanwhile, led Team Melli to the top of their second round group after taking charge in February with the Iranians having won four of their five third round matches, only dropping points to South Korea in a 1-1 home draw last month.

The two sides have a rich history of meeting in Fifa World Cup qualifiers, with their first encounter dating back to 1973 when they exchanged 1-0 wins in the West Germany 1974 qualifiers. They have since met in qualifiers to 1978, 1994, 1998, 2010 and 2018, but Syria’s win in 1973 remains their only victory over the Iranians in the qualifiers, with the other 12 encounters ending in six Iranian wins and as many draws.

In the reverse fixture on the opening matchday, Syria defended resolutely but a second-half strike from Alireza Jahanbakhsh secured a home win at Azadi Stadium. The Feyenoord Rotterdam striker has since added two more goals to top the scorers’ charts at this stage of the qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Syria’s leading scorers Omar Al Soma and Omar Kharbin have two goals each, combining for 80 percent of their side’s goals in Group A.

Both sides saw late goals in their most recent outing on Thursday, for the Iranians it was two from Sardar Azmoun and Ahmad Nourollahi that secured a hard fought 2-1 victory against Lebanon, while for Syria the goal came in their net, with Amir Al Ammari equalising for Iraq with four minutes to go to cancel out Al Soma’s opener five minutes earlier. (With inputs from AFC website)

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