Paulo Bento urges UAE to finish job when they face Yemen in 2026 World Cup qualifier

Victory in Dammam would seal a spot in the next stage of their bid to reach a first global finals since 1990

The UAE's Portuguese coach Paulo Bento says Yemen will be a dangerous opponent. AFP
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UAE coach Paulo Bento has urged his side to beat Yemen on Tuesday night and wrap up progress to the next stage of 2026 World Cup qualification at the earliest opportunity.

The national team face Yemen at the Prince Saud Bin Jalawi Stadium in Dammam, Saudi Arabia (11pm kick off, UAE time) – Yemen are currently not allowed to host games due to the political situation there – and a win would give the UAE an unassailable lead at the top of Group H with two games to spare.

So far they have cast aside Nepal, the lowest-ranked team, 4-0 in Dubai, then recorded a rousing 2-0 victory against Bahrain in Riffa before last week's 2-1 win over Yemen in Abu Dhabi.

The Whites, who narrowly missed out on a spot at the 2022 World Cup, are seeking to become only the second UAE side to reach a global finals, and first since 1990.

“The important thing is that, if we win, we will be qualified,” said Bento, who warned about the threat of a Yemen side who must win to keep their own qualification hopes alive.

“This is our goal. We will analyse this game [the 2-1 win in Abu Dhabi], try to see what we can improve, what kind of changes we can make.

“And I’m not saying just about changing players, but change other aspects in our game. It’s important we talk about certain aspects we didn’t make so well in this game, and try to have in perspective what the opponent can do in the second match.

“It may be the last opportunity for them as well; we should expect a team that will try to do their best maybe in the last chance to qualify."

The 2026 World Cup, to be held in the US, Canada and Mexico, has been expanded to 48 teams, with the number of Asian representatives increased from four guaranteed to eight.

Victory for the UAE on Tuesday would nail down a place in the third round of qualifying in which the AFC's top 18 teams will be split into three groups of six with the top two from each clinching a place at the tournament. The third and fourth-placed teams will then enter another group stage for two more places. There is also potentially a spot available through an intercontinental play-off.

Bento accepts his side will need to play better than they did in the first match against Yemen if they are to realise their dream of a first global finals in more than three decades.

“We complicated the game with some unnecessary actions," the Portuguese said. "But, at the end, we were able to score the second goal and decide the game. If you talk about opportunities to score, we could have scored more goals. But, in general, it was not a very good performance.

“The result, of course, is important because we are in a good position to go through to the next phase. But we need to improve for the next game, where we can decide the qualification.”

UAE 2-1 Yemen - in pictures

Updated: March 25, 2024, 12:40 PM