The UAE squad landed in Jordan on Sunday amid the continuing absence of star player Omar Abdulrahman, as preparations for their free-scoring mission to make World Cup 2018 kicked up another gear.
The Whites will play Iraq on Tuesday when the third-and-final-qualifying round reaches its crescendo. Their essential 2-1 win against high-flying Saudi Arabia last week – gained without the injured 2016 AFC Player of the Year – means they remain, just, in the hunt for a second-ever participation.
Argentine coach Edgardo Bauza drilled his troops in the evening at Amman International Stadium knowing they must thrash eliminated opponents, hope Australia and/or the Saudis lose, plus elicit swings of either six or eight in goal difference if they are to gate crash Group B’s top three.
A 24-player party made the three-hour flight to the capital. Confirmation of the expected news that ‘Amoory’ would remain in Barcelona and recuperate from an ankle problem was provided before departure, but his brother Khaled – a left-back for Al Ain – made the journey as replacement for the banned Mahmoud Khamis of Al Nasr.
Suspensions have also hit influential Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club anchorman Khamis Esmail and prolific Al Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout – who produced a memorable leveller last week in Al Ain for his 35th goal from 52 internationals.
The Under-23 ranks have been raided for promising substitutes Mohammed Abdulbasit of Al Wahda and Ahmed Al Attas of Jazira.
The UAE’s unlikely bid to make next summer’s tournament in Russia will hinge on whether the third-placed Socceroos can be upset by bottom-placed Thailand in Melbourne or if Japan’s success last Thursday in securing a sixth-successive finals berth will quell their desire to defeat second-placed Saudi in Jeddah.
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