The UAE must weather sodden conditions and an exacting examination from recent nemesis Thailand in Tuesday’s tricky World Cup 2022 qualifier.
Bert van Marwijk’s 100-per-cent start at the helm should come under severe pressure at Rangsit’s Thammasat Stadium when Group G’s top two clash. His side, however, will be buoyed by Thursday’s 5-0 dismantling of Indonesia in which a second-half hat-trick from Ali Mabkhout made him his nation’s all-time leading marksman.
MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
For 45 minutes in Dubai, the UAE stuttered.
Then the tempo increased, Al Wasl teenager Ali Saleh shone and history beckoned for Mabkhout.
Recent setbacks against the Thais, however, show they must fire from the start. June 2017’s fitful 1-1 draw in Bangkok effectively ended hopes of making World Cup 2018, while they were arguably outplayed on home soil during a 1-1 draw in January 2019’s Asian Cup group stage.
But Monday night’s washout for final training at the Thammasat will not have helped in this quest.
Van Marwijk resisted the urge to change things up against the Indonesians and stuck with the XI that opened in Malaysia.
Will he be so measured in the second round’s most-stringent test?
Omar Abdulrahman’s comeback from October 2018’s serious knee injury has been more glacial than hoped. Yet the Whites netting three of their five goals last week with the second-half substitute on the park points to an enduring influence – ineffectual stand-in Jassem Yaqoub should worry.
The hosts will envy this dilemma. Outstanding J1 League creator Chanathip Songkrasin’s confirmed absence because of a muscle sprain may tip a delicately balanced meeting in the UAE’s favour.
The Thais mean business.
July’s hiring of Japan’s World Cup 2018 boss Akira Nishino was made in view to drawing tangible results from a promising generation.
Last month’s 0-0 home draw with AFF Suzuki Cup holders Vietnam, however, has put a significant onus on a positive result this week. More points cannot be tossed aside.
Thursday’s 1-1 friendly draw with Congo was lit up by 17-year-old striker Suphanat Mueanta. He may now be thrown in against the higher-ranked UAE.
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