UAE players celebrate after victory over Vietnam in the decisive World Cup qualifier.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
A proud UAE coach Bert Van Marwijk predicted a bright future for the team after their 3-2 victory against Vietnam in a joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifier match on Tuesday.
With the victory, the UAE kept their World Cup dream alive and booked their berth in the final and the third round of the qualifiers.
Ali Hassan Salmeen, Ali Mabkhout and Mahmoud Khamis were on target as the UAE held their nerve to emerge winners in a pressure-cooker match.
They finished the second round on the top of their group with 18 points.
The UAE notched up for victories from four must-win games and put all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to rest with a direct qualification. Winners of all the groups and the four best runners-up get automatic qualification to the next round.
“From the beginning, I have maintained that it is not easy but possible. I am very proud and everyone is proud of our team.
“All the games were played at high level and we were better than our opponents in every game. Today’s game was excellent. Exactly the way I would like it to be played,” said Van Marwijk.
“I can say this team has a bright future. The way they have played throughout the tourney, I am confident they will do better in future also,” he added.
The final round of the qualifiers are slated to be held later this year and the draw for the same will be conducted in Malaysia later next month.
“We will wait and watch for opponents in the next round. But irrespective of it, we will work hard in the same as we worked for this round.
“We had a great preparation. We developed our own style. This is a very strong team with a lot of young players.
“I am thankful to the UAE FA for extending all kinds of support to us in our preparation for the crucial round,” he added.
However, the coach expressed his disappointment as they conceded two goals in the last ten minutes.
“I am not happy with the way we conceded two goals. I never feared there could be draw or any upset but we should have made it 4-0, 5-0, instead of 3-2.
“Though that result of 3-2 does not say anything about what I saw on the pitch and the way game transpired. When you are playing against big team, few mistakes are bound to happen but we should have been careful,” he rued.
After a disappointing performance in the first leg 18 months ago, a new-look UAE put up a resilient show to procure all 12 points up for grabs from the second leg with four victories on a trot.
They kept their best in store till the last games against their strongest opponents and group leaders Vietnam.
After the half-hour mark, the UAE changed their gears and Ali Salmeen put them ahead with a swift strike off a pass from Maohammed Bandar.
Salmeen dedicated the victory to the fans, who turned out in large numbers to root for their team in the decisive qualifiers.
UAE FA had allowed the fans to 30 per cent capacity to back their team after testing the water in President’s Cup final earlier.
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