UAE manager Bert van Marwijk says a poor first-half performance was the reason for Thursday's defeat against South Korea , as their World Cup hopes suffered another blow.
The national team, searching for a first victory in the final round of qualifying, were beaten 1-0 at the Goyang Stadium on Thursday, when Hwang Hee-chan’s first-half penalty proved decisive.
However, the UAE were outplayed for the majority of the game, with South Korea hitting the woodwork three times – twice in a hugely dominant opening 45 minutes – and creating a series of other chances.
For the UAE, their only real opportunity of note came around the hour, with Tahnoun Al Zaabi’s effort from range saved well by home goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu.
The result means Van Marwijk’s men sit second bottom in Group A at the halfway stage, eight points off the automatic-qualification spots and two behind Lebanon in third. Third place offers a path to the World Cup through a series of play-offs. The UAE take on Lebanon in Sidon on Tuesday.
Speaking after the South Korea defeat, Van Marwijk said: “We knew already that we played against the best team in this group and that it would be a difficult game for us.
“The whole week we trained and we coached that the team needs courage to play football here, because we can play football. We did it in the second half, but not in the first half. And that was our problem.
“Every game we prepare the team to try to play to win, and if you give away the initiative too easy like we did in the first half, it’s more difficult to win. Also in this game, where Korea get a lot of chances, then you always get one or two chances. And we had one, and the goalkeeper of Korea made a good save.
“Then you can also play 1-1. Maybe it’s not the result we deserve, but it’s possible. It’s football.”
The UAE are attempting to qualify for a World Cup for only the second time in the country's history having played the tournament in 1990. In contrast, South Korea are bidding to make a 10th successive global finals. Sitting second in the group, two points behind leaders Iran, they face Iraq in Doha on Tuesday.
On Thursday’s victory, manager Paulo Bento said: “It was a very good performance in all the moments of the game as we controlled and dominated from the beginning. The victory is fair, but the difference should have been bigger. We created a lot of chances that should have decided the game earlier.
“The media put the focus on the number of goals scored rather than the opportunities created. People should see the way we play and the chances we have created in many games. The goals will come if we keep creating the opportunities that we have been.”