Ali Mabkhout backs UAE to reach next round of World Cup qualification – with or without his goals

Prolific striker endured rare off night in front of goal in 3-1 win over Thailand

UAE striker Ali Mabkhout is confident the team can reach the next round of World Cup qualification, irrespective of whether he is the one to fire the side through.

The country's all-time leading scorer had an uncharacteristically off night in a hard-fought victory against Thailand in Dubai on Monday, when he missed a series of chances before the team ran out 3-1 winners.

Mabkhout had played an integral role in the national team's 4-0 victory against Malaysia at the same Zabeel Stadium last Thursday, scoring twice.

The Thailand win has kept qualification firmly in UAE hands, with Bert van Marwijk’s men sitting second in Group G, two points off leaders Vietnam.

Only the top team are guaranteed to advance to the third and final round of qualifiers for Qatar 2022. The UAE would progress as group winners should they win their remaining two matches.

Referencing his profligacy against Thailand, Mabkhout said: “Whether I scored in the match or someone else, the important thing is to win. I am always trying my best to help the team to win.

“Our main goal is to collect more points and qualify to the next stage on the way to securing our place in the World Cup 2022. As players, we are confident that we have the capabilities to achieve this dream.”

While Mabkhout did not find the net on Monday, Caio Canedo marked his competitive debut with a fine goal. The Brazil-born forward, who was naturalised early last year along with Fabio De Lima and Sebastian Tagliabue, set the UAE on their way to a crucial triumph, finding the net with a volley on 14 minutes.

De Lima grabbed the second on the night, with substitute Mohammed Juma Eid securing the victory in injury time. Thailand had halved the deficit not long into the second half.

Afterwards, Van Marwijk praised his side for their ability to see off Thailand, who he rated as arguably the toughest team in the group. The match was the second of four for the UAE in a crammed 13-day period.

Canedo said: “The weather was hot, and that may have affected the performance of most of the players in the second half, and Thailand were more offensive after the break to try and level the scores.

“But the experience and skill of our players gave us the advantage and helped the team to win the game. We will focus more in the next two matches against Indonesia and Vietnam to achieve our goal.”

After striking his debut goal for the national team, which was ably assisted by Mabkhout, Juma Eid said: “Playing in the national team with big players like Ali Mabkhout was a dream for me because I consider him my role model. I learned a lot from him.”

Meanwhile, Vietnam take on fourth-placed Malaysia at the nearby Al Maktoum Stadium on Friday.

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