▶ Man­ager Van Mar­wijk con­fi­dent his team can rise to the chal­lenge, de­spite ab­sence of Mabkhout

The National - News - - SPORT - JOHN MCAULEY

Bert van Mar­wijk con­cedes the UAE face one of their tough­est tests when they take on Viet­nam in a World Cup 2022 qual­i­fier to­day, but nev­er­the­less re­mains con­fi­dent his side can se­cure a re­sult to get their cam­paign back on track.

The UAE face the un­beaten South-east Asians at the My Dinh Na­tional Sta­dium in Hanoi look­ing to re­bound from a shock de­feat to Thai­land last month on the out­skirts of Bangkok.

The 2-1 re­verse meant the na­tional team slipped from the sum­mit of Group G to third af­ter three matches, one point be­hind both Thai­land and Viet­nam.

Van Mar­wijk’s men had opened qual­i­fi­ca­tion with a 2-1 victory in Malaysia be­fore de­feat­ing In­done­sia 5-0 at home. Only the group winners are guar­an­teed to progress to the third round.

The UAE’s task on Thurs­day has been made all the more dif­fi­cult given Ali Mabkhout misses out through sus­pen­sion. The Al Jazira striker, now the coun­try’s all-time lead­ing goalscorer, has been in red­hot form dur­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion, notch­ing six goals in three matches.

Mabkhout’s ab­sence in Hanoi may well be keenly felt: the fast-im­prov­ing Viet­nam, Asian Cup quar­ter-fi­nal­ists ear­lier this year, have yet to con­cede at home.

Ahmed Khalil, the 2015 Asian Player of the Year, is ex­pected to in­stead lead the line for the vis­i­tors.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, Van Mar­wijk re­it­er­ated that the match would not be easy, stress­ing the need for a strong per­for­mance from his side.

“We cer­tainly know the op­po­nent very well; in foot­ball there is noth­ing to hide,” said the Dutch­man, who was ap­pointed in March.

“Viet­nam are a de­vel­oped team and one of the strong­est in the group. They have good play­ers and the way they play is dis­tinc­tive. We re­spect the op­po­nent, but I am con­fi­dent in my own team’s abil­ity.”

The UAE spent the be­gin­ning of this week train­ing in Thai­land in prepa­ra­tion for the game, where they an­a­lysed ex­ten­sively Viet­nam’s pre­vi­ous qual­i­fiers while also work­ing on tac­tics ahead of to­day’s game.

Asked if the de­feat last time out, which brought to a halt the UAE’s 100 per cent start to qual­i­fi­ca­tion, would prompt an ad­just­ment in ap­proach, Van Mar­wijk said: “I do not think there will be a change in the way we play. We did well in the past games and achieved good re­sults.

“We have our style of play and the way we want to im­prove it. Some­times the op­po­nent forces you to play a cer­tain way, but our tac­tic is good and fits all games.

“Viet­nam have more than one style of play; they have sev­eral ways. We have stud­ied all th­ese meth­ods and we know them well, and we will try to ex­cel in the way we al­ways play.

“We know how strong the op­po­nent and what their po­ten­tial are, but our team will be as com­pet­i­tive. I have great con­fi­dence in the abil­ity of our play­ers to win to­mor­row’s game.”

Mean­while, UAE de­fender Walid Ab­bas billed the match as a “six-pointer”.

“In such games, win­ning is like get­ting six points and not three, be­cause you face a di­rect com­peti­tor,” said Ab­bas, who cap­tained the side in the opening two qual­i­fiers but sat out the Thai­land match through in­jury.

“And win­ning away from home and in front of op­po­si­tion fans gives you a great boost to mo­rale, in ad­di­tion to jump­ing above the op­po­nent in the rank­ing.”

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