The Whites lost 2-1 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City stadium last October, Mohammad Al Sahlawi’s 90th-minute penalty securing a precious three points for the Green Falcons and inflicting a painful defeat on the visitors.
Mahdi Ali’s men have, however, gone on an six-game winning run since that defeat and come into tonight’s home tie at Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in confident mood following a 2-0 victory against Palestine at the same venue on Thursday.
And Fardan has promised that the UAE will put on a much better show against tonight’s opponents than they did five months ago.
“Maybe we weren’t in shape against Saudi Arabia, the players were not in shape or in a good situation in that game. These things happen, but now against Saudi we will be much better than the last game,” said the 25-year-old at an adidas UAE kit launch even in Dubai Mall earlier this month.
“Most players are in good shape and playing really well and I think we will be in better shape than last time, so I hope we win this game.
“Of course we are under pressure to win this game, they won’t be easy to beat, but we are confident and also trust ourselves to win.”
Despite trailing the Saudis by three points in Group A, the UAE are currently one of the highest-ranked second-placed teams, with four of the eight runners-up from Asia qualifying progressing to the next round.
Tonight’s game is the biggest for UAE football in nearly three decades.
The Whites have previously only appeared at one World Cup and Fardan believes the fate of their hopes of making the 2018 finals in Russia rest in their own hands.
“We will sacrifice a lot to be at our best level to win,” he said.
“We still have the chance to qualify. It’s still in our hands. It’s not easy but we have great players and in difficult situations we always play well so I’m confident we can get a good result.”
UAE schemer Omar Abdulrahman will be the centre of attention for more reason than one in Abu Dhabi this evening.
The 24-year-old was born in Saudi capital Riyadh to immigrant parents but moved to the UAE as a teenager, and has been targeted physically in encounters with the Green Falcons on previous occasions.
His Al Ain and international team-mate Mohanad Salem though says any special focus placed on ‘Amoori’ by the Saudis will not affect either the player or the squad.
“The targeting of Omar, this kind of thing doesn’t affect the team, they will overcome whatever problems they face,” said the 31-year-old Boss defender.
“We are only focusing on the win, this kind of thing will not affect us at all.”
If you look at the CV of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one of his job positions early in his career was being the general secretary of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.
It was a top position within the CIES, which has made terrific progress since being formed in 1995 in collaboration with FIFA and the University of Neuchâtel.
Designed to not only research ways of developing sport, CIES also provides a step for aspiring professionals to work in top positions in the ever-growing sports industry.
The Executive Programme in Sport Management diploma of CIES, supported by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, is now available at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. After two successful terms, they are now open for applications for September’s intake.
With modules ranging from law to communication to marketing and sponsorship in sport, the diploma is the stepping stone to launching careers in top executive roles.
“In terms of qualifications out there, this CIES Executive Programme in Sport Management is number one in sports management areas,” said Louis Kinziger, a former student and now CIES local coordinator in the UAE.
“If you want to become a manager in an organisation or administrative aspect of sport, this will help you reach your goal. If you want to work for an FA like the UAE FA, this diploma will help you and give you the required knowledge. This course represents a solid basis in the domain of sports management.”
So far, the course is popular around the world as well as Abu Dhabi. The 2015-2016 class in Abu Dhabi has 15 students with nationalities including Indian, French, Romanian, Qatari and Emirati, while lecturers are flown in to deliver the week-long modules, which are taught in six block weeks.
Not only are they highly experienced and possess vast knowledge of their subject but they can relate their own experiences of working in top sporting events.
Daniel Rupf were among those to teach this year, and he was Head of World Cup Events at FIFA between 1997 to 2003.
One of the biggest advantages is there is no age requirement to be a student. Only a strong command of English and a high-school qualification is needed while an interest for sport is crucial.
One current student is Grima Antoine. The 21-year-old admits the course has been challenging but hopes it pays dividends in his bid of working in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, should the city be selected.
“The diploma is very interesting as you can examine different areas of sports through the six different modules,” said the Frenchman.
“It teaches you a wide range of things including what decisions you have to make when it comes to different projects and how to analyse things from different perspectives.”
He added: “I’ve always wanted to work in sports. I can’t be an athlete because I don’t have the required level.
The background of sports is really interesting and being involved in sporting events is something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to be part of big events and this course will help me do that.”
For more information on how to apply, visit www.sorbonne.ae.
Saudi Arabia boss Bert van Marwijk has warned his already-qualified side still possess the hunger to get the result which could end the UAE’s World Cup 2018 ambitions.
The Green Falcons will make the third round of the AFC process no matter the result during tonight’s showdown in Abu Dhabi.
This is contrast to the hosts, who are chasing victory to guarantee progression.
Van Marwijk has awaken a fallen giant since he took charge last August and the man who guided the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010 is preaching professionalism.
“I think the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the best two teams in our pool,” said the ex-Netherlands and Borussia Dortmund supremo, whose nation currently top Group A. “Everybody knows we are already qualified for the last round.
“But we will not consider that, we want to play in a way that we reach our own level.
“UAE have to win. And we want also to win and we will play to win – we will not defend.”
LIKELY LINE-UP AND TEAM NEWS: The Green Falcons have no new injury problems or bans to report from Thursday’s 2-0 victory against Malaysia. Their numbers were reduced before this match, with Naif Hazazi, Salem Al Dawsari and Walid Bakshween kicked out for ill-discipline.
A less-than-impressive match saw the Saudis edge past whipping boys Malaysia on Thursday, 14-goal AFC top scorer Mohammad Al Sahlawi and midfielder Taisir Al Jassim registering in the second half.
This was in contrast to the UAE, who showed maturity to edge out third-placed Palestine by the same 2-0 scoreline.
Van Marwijk said: “We spoke about the UAE and saw the images of their games. They are very well prepared, we know all the players and their quality.
“We know who is injured, we know the players who are suspended and the way they play. But I never talk about players individually.”
As well as the poor performance against Malaysia, disciplinary problems have also dogged the visitors’ build-up.
Al Hilal winger Salem Al Dawsari and Al Ahli Jeddah defensive midfielder Walid Bakshween were kicked out after they reported late for duty, while Al Nassr hot shot Naif Hazazi went AWOL.
The next step in the AFC procedure will see the 12 qualified teams split into two groups of six, with the top two from each gaining guaranteed slots to the World Cup.
The UAE would be major rivals for the Saudis if they followed them there, but Van Marwijk dismissed the notion they are eager to deal an early knockout blow to their rivals.
“Motivation is to reach every time our own level,” the 63-year-old replied. “It doesn’t have influence against which opponent you play or the circumstances you are in, as you already have to reach your own level.
“We did it until now and I hope we will do again. We do not think about those things.”