Bert van Marwijk remains focused on UAE World Cup play-off bid despite defeat to Iran

National team sit in the play-off spot in Group A with two matches remaining

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Bert van Marwijk expressed his disappointment in the UAE’s 1-0 defeat in Iran on Tuesday, but remained focused in his side's bid to make the World Cup.

The national team, third in Group A, lost in Tehran to a first-half goal from Porto striker Mehdi Taremi and then failed to make count their numerical advantage after the hosts had defender Sadegh Moharrami sent off minutes into the second half.

The result, coupled with South Korea’s win on Tuesday against Syria in Dubai, means the UAE cannot qualify directly for Qatar 2022. Van Marwijk’s side do, though, occupy the play-off spot with two matches remaining. At present, they are three points better off than fourth-placed Lebanon, with Iraq four behind.

The UAE travel to take on Iraq for a potentially decisive encounter on March 24, before rounding off the group against already qualified South Korea. Group leaders Iran have also booked their place at the World Cup.

Speaking immediately following Tuesday’s loss at the Azadi Stadium, Van Marwijk said: "In the first half, we tried to play our own way and dominate the match. After a player was sent off from the Iranian team in the second half, we played for a long period against 10 players. We tried to take the initiative, but the opponent stayed ahead of us and we could not make lots of opportunities."

Van Marwijk, in his second stint as UAE manager, will be without midfielders Abdullah Ramadan and Tahnoun Al Zaabi for the qualifier against Iraq, after both picked up yellow cards in Iran. The UAE have only once previously qualified for a World Cup, in 1990.

On how Tuesday’s results affect the team's chances of progression, Van Marwijk said: "We are still in the race for third place, but I am sad for the loss we suffered today."

Updated: February 02, 2022, 7:21 AM