Players of the UAE attend a training session ahead of their match against Thailand.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
The UAE will look to extend their winning streak in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asia Cup qualifiers when they take on Thailand in the second match on Monday.
The UAE needed to win all their remaining four matches to advance to the next round of the qualifiers.
They got off to a winning start with comprehensive 4-0 victory over Malaysia in the opening match of the tournament last Thursday.
With the victory the hosts moved to the second spot in their group with nine points from five matches.
The UAE registered their first win under the coach Bert Van Marwijk, who returned to the Whites for his second stint. But a wary Van Marwijk ruled out any kind of slip-ups or complacency against Thailand.
“We respect all our opponents. They are all very strong teams, especially Thailand as they defated us in the first leg,” said Van Marwijk.
“As I said earlier, I am still not satisfied with the result. I was only 75 per cent satisfied with the performance of the team in the last match,” he added.
Thailand had defeated the UAE in the first leg 18 months ago when Van Marwijk was their coach. Comparing the erstwhile squad with the present team, Van Marwijk said: “The team now is stronger. They are physically more fit and stronger. All the players have developed their skills very well.
“Ramdan has made tremendous progress and he is one of the best players around,” said the coach. Commenting on the tight fixtures, he added: “This is one of the most difficult challenges to play back to back matches in this heat.
“We have a very good team who work tirelessly to keep the players fit both physically and mentally.
“Players get tired at the end of the match and we have to cope with this situation,” he apprised.
Van Marwijk was entrusted with the responsibility of charting out a map for the qualification of the UAE to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He is a shrewd planner, who helped Saudi Arabia qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He succeeded George Lewis Pinto, who parted ways with the UAE without being in charge in a single international match.
After the victory in the opening match of the tournament the picture for the qualification looks significantly rosier.
Ahmed Ali Mabkhout and Fabio Lima both scored a brace each as the UAE trounced Malaysia.
In the process, he also became the second highest scorer in the International matches among the current lot of players.
Mabkhout surpassed the Argentine legend and Barcelona star striker Lionel Messi and India’s Sunil Chhetri, who have scored 72 goals apiece on the international stage.
Mabkhout is only behind Portugal captain and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored over 100 goals in international matches.
The joint qualifiers were shifted to the UAE in the wake of rising coronavirus cases in the South Asian countries. The UAE has emerged as the most sought-after destination to host the sporting events since the outbreak of the pandemic across the globe.
Having hosted a number of world-class events, like Indian Premier League (IPL), MMA fights, Abu Dhabi GP and Dubai Tennis Championships, the UAE has affirmed its status a safe haven for sporting events. The UAE will once again bank on the striker duo of Ali Mabkhout and Lima for their second successive win in the qualifiers with a victory over Thailand.
Meanwhile, the UAE midfielder Abdellah Ramadan said the victory in the first match motivated the players more and boosted their morale after the team moved up to the second place in the group.
Ramadan said: “All of us are keen to continue the same fighting spirit in the remaining matches. I promise to give my best and strive a positive result for the qualification to the next stage”.
He also predicted a tough match against Thailand.
“This is a very important match and against a tough opponent. They are a very strong team and we have to keep that in mind.”
Commenting on his performance in the match for the two vital assists, the young midfielder said: “I am just doing my role as per the instruction of our coach.
“We are playing as a team and everyone is trying to help the team win.
“I am very proud to be part of the Whites and will do my best to make the fans happy.”
Ramadan also thanked the UAE coach for his praise. “I am grateful to the coach for his praise and the trust that he showed in me. I will try to get better in the next match and live up to the expectations of the coach and fans alike,” he added.
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