Bert Van Marwijk speaks at a press conference. File
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
The UAE national football team coach Bert Van Marwijk is confident of putting up a winning performance against the Asian powerhouse Iran in their World Cup qualifying match at the Zabeel Stadium on Thursday.
The UAE are at the third spot in their group with two points after two draws in the third and the final round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers.
The UAE were held by Syria and Lebanon in their first two matches of the third round. While Iran are sitting on the top of the group after notching up to victories on a trot from as many games.
“We have been very consistent in last six matches but squandered a few chances against Syria and Lebanon to score goals and that is the reason we are here but that is football.
“Had we not missed those chances we would have easily won those matches and would be having six points,” said Van Marwijk.
“We have developed our own style and we are playing very well. There are some injury concerns but the players who are going to replace the injured players are also very good and I have full trust in them,” he added.
The UAE have suffered a major injury blow as they are going to play without captain Walid Abbas and midfielder Ali Salmeen, who are nursing niggling injuries.
But Van Marwijk tried to sound unfazed by the injuries to the senior players, emphasising their replacements are quite good.
The Dutch coach also said he relishing the prospect of taking on Iran, who are one of the best and strongest teams in Asia.
“We know that Iran are a very strong team and are the Asian powerhouse of football along with Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. They have some very good players, who ply their trade in the European leagues.
“I have been looking forward to this game. I like such games. I also know that UAE have never defeated Iran before but I always like to take up the difficult challenges,” he said.
Van Marwijk played down the talks of playing for a draw against the mighty Iran “We play to win. We always aspire to win, irrespective of the opponents and. But if it’s so easy then you can win all the games.
“I am well aware of the fact that both history and odds are stacked against us but we will play to win not salvage a draw,” he reiterated.
“Maybe we made it a little bit difficult for ourselves. If you saw the last four matches in the last round, we played very well, scored lots of goals. Every game we were better than our opponents. And then you create expectations; I understand that.
“The UAE are a young team, which is going through transition at the same time we also have to keep an eye on the qualification for the showpiece event.”
Commenting on the UAE’s chances of qualification, he stressed: “I strongly believe that we still have a very good chance to qualify for the football spectacle in Qatar in 2022. I take up a project only when I have confidence in it. And I have already proved that twice in my career. I will like to do it the third time.
“I’m here take them to the World Cup. If I don’t believe in a project and I don’t believe in a team I will go home, I will stay in Holland. I have a lot of confidence in this young team that they are capable of making it to the World Cup in Qatar next year.”
Van Marwijk is believed to be one of the shrewdest coach around. He was the architect of Saudi Arabia’s qualification to the Russia World Cup in 2018 after guiding Netherlands to runners-up spot in 2010 in South Africa.
When Van Marwijk took over as a coach, the UAE’s chances of advancing to the third round was very feeble. They had to win all their matches to keep their hopes alive.
Under Van Marwijk, a resilient UAE put up a resurgent performnace and went on to win all their matches to stay afloat. The UAE had won four matches in a row to advance to the third round. They began their campaign with an emphatic win over Malaysia and set the tone for the rest of the tournament in the second round.
12 team have been divided into two groups of six each for the third round. The UAE have been placed in group A along with Iran, South Korea, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Two teams from each group will directly qualify for the mega event. The third placed teams from each group will play in a play off and the winner will advance to the continental qualifier.
The Round 2 fixtures will be played in March and June next year, with the third round slated to be played in September.
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