UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif is targeting top spot in Group B and a place in the Fifa Arab Cup quarter-finals, when his side complete the pool against Tunisia on Monday.
Bert van Marwijk’s men go into the match at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha top of the standings following two victories from two thus far in Qatar. Sitting three points ahead of second-placed Tunisia and also Syria in third, the UAE know a draw would seal progression as group winners to the last eight. However, a defeat could also spell the end of the national team’s tournament.
In fact, any of the four teams can still advance to Friday’s knockouts - even winless Mauritania should they defeat Syria and the UAE see off Tunisia. The matches kick off simultaneously on Monday.
Speaking on Sunday, Khaseif said the UAE were fully prepared for the group decider against Tunisia, with the Al Jazira captain promising the players would give everything in their quest to go through at the summit of Group B.
“After leading the group thanks to winning the first and second matches, the focus is now on Tunisia,” Khaseif said. “This is the most important match because it determines the team’s position in the group. We hope that we succeed in maintaining the national team’s position at the top of the group, and qualifying for the quarter-final.”
Khaseif, who excelled last Tuesday in the opening 2-1 win against Syria, paid tribute in particular to the UAE support for providing additional motivation to the side while in Qatar. The national team came into the Arab Cup off the back of a morale-boosting victory in their most recent 2022 World Cup qualifier, away to Lebanon, which breathed life back into their campaign to reach the global finals next year.
"We cannot give our fans enough thanks and praise,” Khaseif said. “They have never missed a match, and they have continued to encourage us in all circumstances, so we must be on our game, and do everything we have to make them happy.
“I hope that we will succeed in achieving their aspirations.”
Meanwhile, hosts Qatar will be seeking to send out a statement to the rest of the competition in their final Group A fixture against Iraq.
Felix Sanchez’s side are already through to the quarter-finals as winners of the pool – they were the first team to qualify for the knockouts – and could meet the UAE in the last eight on Friday.
Elsewhere, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria have all already booked their spot in the quarter-finals also.