World Cup Qualifier: UAE face must-win game against Iraq today

UAE lost to Iran on Thursday in their last World Cup qualifying game. (UAEFA Twitter)
UAE lost to Iran on Thursday in their last World Cup qualifying game. (UAEFA Twitter)

Dubai - UAE will play Iraq today at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai (8:45 pm UAE Time)

Published: Tue 12 Oct 2021, 1:39 PM

Still searching for their first win in the third round of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, UAE will be determined to keep their hopes alive when they take on Iraq at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Tuesday.

Anything other than a victory against Iraq will be a big blow to their qualifying campaign.

Having started the third round with two draws against Lebanon (0-0) and Syria (1-1) last month, UAE produced a much-improved display in their next game against Iran in Dubai on Thursday.

But a second-half goal from Mehdi Taremi handed The Whites their first defeat of the campaign.

Bert van Marwijk’s men will be now desperate to earn three points against Iraq.

Iraq, managed by van Marwijk’s compatriot Dick Advocaat, also started their campaign with two draws and one defeat. With only the top two teams of each group earning automatic berths for next year’s World Cup, UAE, the third-placed team in Group A, will hope to draw inspiration from their home fans against Iraq.

“Everyone understands the importance of the Iraq match. We have to be more determined in the next match, as we need to outperform our opponent to move a step forward in the standings and maintain our chances of qualifying,” defender Shaheen Abdulrahman said after the defeat to Iran.

Having missed several scoring chances against Lebanon and Syria, UAE put up a fine defensive display against the strong Iran team.

But the team featuring the prolific Ali Mabkhout failed to get even one shot on target against the Iranians.

“Everyone is very sad about what happened, but we as players are not satisfied with the defeat and want to provide a better performance against Iraq,” said Abdulrahman.

“We have now put aside the loss and returned to training with great motivation to compensate in the next match.”

With the top two teams in Group A, Iran (9 points) and South Korea (7 points) clashing in Tehran on Tuesday, UAE have a chance to consolidate their position in the table with three points.

“Our ambition is to win to return to the forefront again, but at the same time our opponent has the same motives and seeks to improve their position in the group,” UAE midfielder Abdullah Hamad said.

“We have to work hard and compete hard, and I hope we will succeed in achieving the desired result.”

Van Marwijk has great memories of the World Cup as a coach, having guided Netherlands to a runner-up finish in the 2010 World Cup. The Dutch manager also helped Saudi Arabia qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“I have succeeded in qualifying for the World Cup twice before with national teams. And I hope to do it for the third time,” Van Marwijk had said before the Iran game.

Van Marwijk’s illustrious coaching career also saw him win the Uefa Cup with Feyenoord in 2002.

But the 69-year-old coach faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career with UAE which is aiming to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

“We have prepared well for this game (against Iraq),” Van Marwijk said on Monday.

“It’s a very important game. We have seven matches to go and we still have a chance. As long as we have a chance we fight.”

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