UAE coach Van Marwijk remains grounded despite two straight wins
Only the eight group winners will progress to the final round of World Cup qualifiers
After the UAE’s second straight win in the Asian World Cup qualifiers, head coach Bert van Marwijk refused to look too far ahead.
The Whites overcame the challenge of Thailand with a 3-1 victory in their Group G encounter at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai, four days after their resounding 4-0 win over Malaysia.
Six points from the first two matches after the resumption of the World Cup qualifiers have put the UAE in second place with 12 points from six games, two points behind Group G leaders Vietnam.
Only the eight group winners will progress to the final round of qualifiers. But the four best-placed runners-up teams will also book their place in the next round.
While the UAE face the bottom-placed and the already eliminated Indonesia in their next match on Friday, leaders Vietnam play Malaysia on the same day.
The skillful Vietnam, who thrashed Indonesia 4-0 on Monday, will start as the favourites against Malaysia.
The UAE, on the other hand, will look for a big win against the basement dwellers, Indonesia.
Van Marwijk admitted his only focus after the Thailand victory was on the Indonesia game.
“I had said in the beginning that we need to win everything. We are still not there. We will not take anything for granted. And that is why we are here and we are working for it,” the Dutch coach told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“My focus is on the Indonesia match. It is as important as any other game of the tournament. We will not take them lightly.”
Van Marwijk, who helped Saudi Arabia qualify for the 2018 World Cup, was relieved to have earned the three points against Thailand after a hard-fought win on Monday.
“It was a very tough match against a strong opponent. I think they had analyzed us very well and started pressing us from the beginning,” he said.
First half goals from Caio Canedo and Fabio Lima set the tone for the UAE dominance, but Thailand hit back in the second half with a wonderful goal from Suphanat Mueanta in the 54th minute.
The visitors kept on advancing for the equaliser in the dramatic encounter, but a quick UAE counterattack in the injury time saw second half substitute Mohammad Juma Eid score the match-winning goal.
“I am not hundred per cent satisfied with today’s (Monday’s) performance as we missed a lot of chances. The score line could have been 4-1, 5-1 or even more,” he said, referring to several missed chances from the UAE in the match.
“Despite creating chances, we failed to convert them into goals. However, we could achieve three points. In the second-half. Thailand scored a goal to make it more difficult for us. But we could pull it back in time because of the timely substitution.”
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