On Thursday, the UAE begin the third and final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup with a home match against Lebanon. Here’s a look at five players key to the national team’s chances of booking a spot in Qatar next year.
The Al Jazira goalkeeper has made the No 1 position his own having lost out for some time to Al Ain’s Khalid Essa. A current Arabian Gulf League champion with his club, Khaseif continues to be a major influence in the dressing room, as well as on the pitch.
He proved his shot-stopping capabilities remain intact during the postponed second-round qualifiers in June – Khaseif was on hand to bail out his side whenever required. He is ably assisted by captain Walid Abbas, who guides defence in front.
A firm favourite among the UAE coaching staff, the Al Wasl midfielder has been exemplary in the heart of the side since making the position his own at the beginning of the second round of qualification.
Salmeen is tireless and tenacious in midfield, but displayed his excellent technique too in the decider against Vietnam when his rocketed strike gave the UAE the lead. Excellent at breaking up play, while also linking possession. Has become a crucial cog in Bert van Marwijk’s side.
The Salmeen-Ramadan axis has reaped rewards for manager Bert van Marwijk, with the Al Jazira midfielder becoming one of the real stars of the side since his debut in late 2019.
A silky technician who also mixes up his game by helping out defensively, Ramadan took his club form with the newly appointed UAE champions into June’s qualifiers. There, he registered three assists and attracted an ample amount of the spotlight with his all-round play. Intelligent and with an eye for a killer ball, much to Ali Mabkhout’s benefit.
Fabio De Lima
What an impact the Al Wasl forward has made since being granted UAE citizenship early last year. The pandemic may have delayed his debut, but De Lima certainly made up for lost time during the June qualifiers.
The Brazil-born attacker, a consistent star in the domestic league, scored five goals in four matches, including doubles against Malaysia and Indonesia. However, he can create as well as carry that goal threat. Alongside the naturalised Caio Canedo and Sebastian Tagliabue, his presence has taken the goalscoring strain off Mabkhout. De Lima, though, is the standout.
The UAE’s all-time record goalscorer, the lead marksman thus far throughout the entire World Cup 2022 qualification, and a recently anointed Emirati player of the year, Mabkhout remains the go-to guy for his country.
The Al Jazira striker struck five times during June and could have had a few more, eventually taking his tally for the campaign to an unrivalled 11 goals. His overall haul stands at 76. Leading expertly from the front, Mabkhout has become a more vocal member of the squad, too. His role in the side, for some time established, cannot be underestimated.