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UAE face must-win situation against Malaysia in World Cup qualifier

rituraj@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 2, 2021
The UAE players during a training session. (UAEFA Twitter)

The Group G action for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup slots resumes in Dubai on Thursday


With fans back at the stadium, the UAE hope to draw inspiration from the proverbial 12th man in their attempt to keep their slim World Cup qualification hopes alive.

The Group G action in the AFC qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup slots resumes on Thursday in Dubai, more than a year after the campaign was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The regular home-and-away format has been replaced as Dubai will host all the five teams -- Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia being the other four teams -- for the remaining rounds of Group G matches from June 3 to June 17.

When the sporting world was brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus last year, the UAE hopes were hanging by a thread, having accumulated just six points from four matches.

The UAE, Asian Cup runners-up in 1996 and semi-finalists in the last two editions, floundered after a promising start as they lost two matches after winning their first couple of games.

After their away defeats to the skilful Vietnam and Thailand, The Whites are now languishing in fourth place.

For them to have a chance of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Bert van Marwijk’s men have to beat Malaysia on Thursday when the Group G action resumes.

The UAE trail their Thursday’s opponents, the second-placed Malaysia (nine points from five games), by three points while the third-placed Thailand (eight points from five matches) face the already-eliminated Indonesia in the other game.

The winners of the eight groups, along with the four best runners-ups across all groups, will qualify for the third round of World Cup qualifiers in Asia.

And the top four fourth-placed teams across all groups will move into the third qualifying round of the 2023 Asian Cup.

There is still a consolation for the remaining four fourth-placed teams which can advance to a qualifying playoff round for the Asian Cup.

Van Marwijk knows the magnitude of the challenge ahead of the UAE who are five points behind Group G leaders Vietnam (11 points from five matches),

His players, though, showed impressive form and rhythm in their friendly matches ahead of the resumption of the World Cup qualifying rounds.

“We have worked very hard for this game (against Malaysia) and we know we have to win everything,” Van Marwijk said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

“I can’t change it all, the players and all staff know we have to win. There’s always pressure to perform at the top.”

The pitch at the Zabeel Stadium is in perfect condition and Van Marwijk felt the fans return on Thursday would be the icing on the cake.

“I saw the pitch today and t’s a good pitch, it is an extremely good pitch. And everyone is happy that fans are back. It is always good to have spectators in the stadium,” said Van Marwijk who had helped Saudi Arabia qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But Van Marwijk, who began his second stint in the UAE dugout last year, knows his past record as coach will hold no significance when his men lock horns with Malaysia in the must-win game on Thursday.

“I only think about the next match,” he said.

“If you want to perform well, you can’t focus on too many things and players also know that. And there is only one thing which is that we have to win.”

Group G schedule

Dubai

(UAE Time)

June 3

UAE vs Malaysia

Zabeel Stadium

Thailand vs Indonesia

Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium

Both matches start at 8:45pm

June 7

UAE vs Thailand

Zabeel Stadium

Vietnam vs Indonesia

Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium

Both matches start at 8:45pm

June 11

UAE vs Indonesia

Zabeel Stadium

Malaysia vs Vietnam

Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium

Both matches start at 8:45pm

June 15

UAE vs Vietnam

Zabeel Stadium

Thailand vs Malaysia

Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium

Both matches start at 8:45pm

author

Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.





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