Veteran Ismail Ahmed has vowed the complicated scenario which could determine the UAE’s World Cup 2018 fate holds no fear ahead of the imminent showdown with Saudi Arabia.
The Whites brushed aside 10-man Palestine 2-0 on Thursday in the first of a must-win double, teeing up a Group A-decider with the leaders. With a disadvantage of three strikes on goal difference to Tuesday’s opponents, the hosts are likely to need to finish as one of the four best second-placed teams in the eight pools to proceed to the third round of qualifying.
A range of permutations will be at play next week across Asia. But towering Al Ain centre-back Ahmed, 32, declared he is not overawed by the perplexing situation.
He said: “We are not afraid of complex calculations. We have finished the first game, and our preparations are in full swing against Saudi Arabia – we have already started thinking about them.
“The public and our presence on home soil gave us a strong motivation against Palestine. But the victory also came about because of collective play and high spirit, which is reflected in our enthusiasm.”
A win against Saudi Arabia should be enough for the UAE but if they fall short, the Whites will require other results to fall their way.
Worryingly, UAE’s win over Palestine came at a cost. Al Hammadi, Majed Hassan and Habib Fardan all picked up bookings to rule them out of the UAE’s final second-round assignment. Coach Ali reacted to the bans by calling up Al Shabab forward Dawood Ali and Al Ain defensive midfielder Ahmed Barman.
“During this match we saw too many yellow cards and we have so many players who will miss the next match,” coach Ali bemoaned.
“On the other hand, we have to work on some players who have been injured such as Ali Mabkhout and Ismail Matar.”
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