Besieged UAE boss Mahdi Ali has taken confidence from the fact that even three-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has not been immune to harsh criticism, ahead of Tuesday’s critical World Cup 2018 qualifier against Iraq.
Ali, 51, has been repeatedly questioned over his future after last month’s 3-0 embarrassment in Saudi Arabia caused serious damage to hopes of reaching Russia. These rumours have further stated a negative result in the pressurised clash at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium would see his historic four-year tenure brought to a close.
Speaking to the media, the Whites supremo revealed inspiration in the intervening weeks has been found in the way Real Madrid icon Cristiano Ronaldo has battled back from adversity during a celebrated career.
“Pressure is part of my job,” Ali said. “Before they asked (then Real Madrid coach) Jose Mourinho about the drop in Cristiano Ronaldo’s level and he said there’s not a discussion about the value of Cristiano Ronaldo, everybody knows he is a great player – best player in the world.
“But sometimes he suffers from a drop. This also happens to a coach.
“My duty is to recover very quickly from this and give a good performance and getting a good result will be very positive for me and the team. We will get back on the right path.”
The UAE come into Tuesday evening’s third-and-final round clash down in fourth. Only the top two from Group B will automatically proceed to the globe’s grandest sporting event, with the third-placed finishers fighting out to make the inter-confederation play-off.
Iraq – nicknamed the Lions of Mesopotamia – are one place and three points in arrears to them, with a chasmic 43 places the difference in the FIFA rankings from the 70th-positioned hosts.
But ex-Sharjah defender Radhi Shenaishil’s men come in with boosted confidence after now Al Nasr forward Muhannad Abdulraheem scored all four goals during last month’s 4-0 thrashing of Thailand.
“The defeat against Saudi Arabia of course affected the morale of the UAE team,” said the coach, who won 80 caps for his country. “But pressure is not only on them. It is on all the teams, even the top teams like Saudi and Japan.
“If they get any defeats or draws, they will suffer the same pressure. Pressure also is on us as we have lost points.
“If the UAE get a positive result they can play more comfortably, but now they have some pressure. Both teams will play for the win.”