Omar Abdulrahman '100 per cent' ready to power UAE's 2022 World Cup play-off bid

Influential playmaker has been in sparkling form for Shabab Al Ahli since returning from injury

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UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman says he is “100 per cent ready” to help the national team in this summer’s World Cup play-offs having starred recently on his return from injury for Shabab Al Ahli.

The Emirati midfielder, 30, has spent the majority of the season on the sidelines – he has played only twice in the 2021/22 Adnoc Pro League – but has been in inspired form this month in the Asian Champions League group stages in Saudi Arabia. Abdulrahman had not played competitively since early January.

The 2016 Asian player of the year was particularly influential last week against Qatar’s Al Gharafa, when he created two assists and played key roles in two more goals as the Dubai side won 8-2.

Understandably, Abdulrahman’s performances have piqued the interest of many inside UAE football, including national team manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena. The UAE face Australia in the World Cup play-offs in Qatar on June 7. Should they win, they take on Peru six days later for a place in the global finals.

Abdulrahman has not featured for the national team since November 2019.

Asked by Abu Dhabi Sports immediately following Tuesday night’s Group C finale against Iran’s Foolad if he was ready for the play-offs, Abdulrahman said: “With no doubt, even if I'm not ready. Being 50 per cent ready means you're ready. However, I am 100 per cent ready because it is everybody's dream, it is the dream of UAE.

“I hope everyone stands together, not only the players, the technical staff and the administration team, but also the media, fans, and everyone during this time - because the two remaining matches can lead us to the World Cup finals.

“Of course, the first play-off against Australia will be difficult for sure, but with solidarity, we will be able to make the UAE fans happy.”

Gharafa's defender Homam Ahmed  vies for the ball with Shabab's midfielder Omar Abdulrahman, left, in the AFC Champions League. AFP

On his return to the Shabab Al Ahli set-up, Abdulrahman said: “I'm playing for many reasons. It is adventurous, risky, and more. I'm trying my best to help the team.

“But to be honest, I'm not satisfied with myself today due to fatigue, but I tried my best to help my team. They did great by scoring a goal in a draw, which qualified us for the next round.”

Against Foolad, Abdulrahman was substituted on the hour, with the match goalless. Shabab Al Ahli eventually drew 1-1, although they had already qualified for the last 16. In the end, they finished runners-up in the group to Foolad.

“Thanks to God, we qualified,” Abdulrahman said. “It's true that the beginning [of the tournament] was extremely difficult. We collected three points in the first three matches, but praise to God we were able to win in the fourth match, which qualified us for the next round.”

Meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Wednesday that the UAE's play-off against Australia will be staged at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 12:33 PM
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