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World Cup qualifiers:UAE eye maximum against Bahrain

World Cup qualifiers:UAE eye maximum against Bahrain
11 June 2024 15:46

Kuumar Shyam (Abu Dhabi)

Paulo Bento’s UAE side are ruling roost in the second round of joint qualification for the FIFA 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia, but the Group H toppers will be looking to tick off some minor wins against Bahrain in the final dead rubber for both sides when they meet in Dubai on Tuesday night.

21:00 kick-off time

The UAE are leading handsomely with five wins out of as many games, but the Portuguese manager now seeks 18 points while giving other younger players some match time when the two teams meet at Al Wasl club’s Zabeel Stadium. Bahrain are second in the group with 10 points, having lost one game, to UAE in their home fixture by 2-0.

“Every match is a good opportunity to improve our style,” Bento told media on the eve of the match. “Of course, we will be thinking a little bit about the result, but a lot of focus in the process.

“At the same time, we want to reach 18 points, which means that, in this phase of qualifying, we will be among a small group who can do that – like Iraq, Australia and Japan.

“To do that we need to score; it will mean that we have scored in all the group games. We also have the opportunity to have a clean sheet in five games (out) of six, which will be important. And of course, it’s important to play a good game, perform in the best possible way, attack to score and at the same time defend well.”

Yemen and Nepal, whom UAE beat 4-0 on Thursday, make up the group. Only five slots remain available with the second spots from Groups A, B, C, D and F to be decided on Tuesday.

Bento was flanked in the pre-match press conference by Sultan Adil as he returns from suspension after collecting yellow cards. His presence is a clear indicator to the kind of changes expected.

Against Nepal, Khaled Tawhid was the custodian between the sticks while Khaled Eisa or Ali Khaseif were not needed. Tawhid was hardly troubled. Khaled Al Hashemi was substituted early while Yahya Nader was on the bench among the defenders, and Bento may switch them around. 

Scorer of two goals Harib Abdulla along with Ali Saleh and Tahnoon Al Zaabi may get to retain their places for some continuity. The organisation in the UAE camp got a thumbs-up from the rival coach as well.

Bahrain manager Dragan Talajic said: “The UAE have a really nice team. They have one of the best sides – if you take the young age of the players and how they are playing. Tomorrow will be a tough game, and a good test for us.

“Bento has made them very organised; the wingers are very fast; in the middle some experienced players with some younger players, which is a good mix,” Talajic said.

The UAE manager would not reveal his combination though. “To be honest, I don’t know yet which starting XI we are going to use tomorrow,” Bento said, “because we have many, many things to take into consideration – but if we can bring some opportunities for the young players, we will do that. However, the main goal is to compete as much as we can and try to win the game and reach three more points to that figure of 18 as mentioned earlier.”

Adil, who turned 20 last month, added his appreciation for the coach and his teammates “for all the mental and physical support” he gets. “I always try to work as hard as possible to achieve results. At the end of the day, when you work hard you get the reward. I represent the UAE and that gives me a lot of motivation to do my best for the national team,” Adil said.

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