The UAE players attend a training session ahead of their match against Indonesia. Courtesy: Twitter
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
A respectful UAE coach Bert Van Marwijk urged his team to keep their focus in tact against the underdogs Indonesia in their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asia Cup qualifier match on Friday.
The UAE will look to maintain their winning momentum against Indonesia in their third match of the qualifiers, after notching up two wins from as many games.
The UAE, who moved to the second spot in the standing following their two straight wins, are favourites against the bottom-placed Indonesia.
The UAE defeated Malaysia 4-0 in the opening match of the tournament to follow it up with another emphatic victory against a stubborn Thailand to boost their qualification hopes.
Though they had beaten Malaysia in the first round as well, Thailand had defeated them 2-1 before the Asian qualifiers came to a halt due to the pandemic.
The tournament got under way after a delay of 18 months, having been procrastinated thrice before finally kicking off in the UAE in the first week of June.
The UAE needed to win all their four matches to remain alive in the competition and they have already won two of them.
With two consecutive victories, the picture looks significantly rosier now. But Van Marwijk played down the favourites tag and urged his team not to lose focus against Indonesia.
“We are standing where we were in the first match. We have not achieved anything as yet. We should remain focused on our goal of qualification and not get carried away,” said Van Marwijk.
He also stressed that the Indonesia match is no less important than the previous two games, and he will take it seriously so that he can achieve the desired goal.
“I have a deep respect for Indonesia. They are a strong team and can surprise anybody on a given day. They have performed well and succeeded in snatching a draw against Thailand.
“It will not be an easy catch. We will not take them lightly. This match is as important as any other game. We should have mutual respect for all the teams in the group,” added the Dutch coach.
“We take each match one by one and deal with all the teams with the same assessment. There is no weak or strong team,” he informed.
The coach expressed his satisfaction with the team’s development pace since last year.
“We started preparing for the qualifiers a long time ago. As I said, ‘We are trying to develop our own style, which distinguishes our performance in all matches.’ And I think we succeeded in this aspect, which is something that most of the people have noticed,” he elaborated.
“Preparing the players for back-to-back matches in the sweltering heat is a big challenge. But we have a team of specialists, who help us to keep them fit and healthy both mentally and physically.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s Bandar Al Ahbabi said that the match against the Indonesians will not be easy, stressing his full respect for all the teams.
“We have to respect all the teams and we take all the matches one-by-one. Only then can we move to the next stage,” said Bandar, who was instrumental in their win against Thailand with two assists.
Bandar praised the technical staff, saying: “It is a great effort they are making in preparing the players, especially in the physical aspect.
“Playing in the temperature and at the end of the season is not an easy matter, but they help us overcome these challenges,” he added.
The UAE captain and goalkeeper Ali Khasief said that they are looking forward to continue the winning momentum.
“We are looking forward to carry on the momentum and targeting to collect another three points against Indonesia.
“The atmosphere at the national team camp is wonderful and players are motivated. It is very positive,” he added.
The veteran goalkeeper expressed his joy to see the fans coming back to the stadium to support the players, “We are really in need of their support, they are always encouraging us,” he stressed.
Fans have returned to the stadium after a long time. Since the outbreak of pandemic all the matches were held in the empty stadiums.
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