UAE FACE A TOUGH VIETNAM TEST IN QUALIFIER
▶ Manager Van Marwijk confident his team can rise to the challenge, despite absence of Mabkhout
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.”