UAE midfielder Ali Salmeen said his side recognise exactly the challenge that awaits in their decisive World Cup qualifier against Vietnam on Tuesday, but that they will “fight with all their might” to reach the third and final phase.
Currently second in Group G, Bert van Marwijk’s men go into the second-round finale knowing victory at the Zabeel Stadium will ensure they usurp Vietnam and qualify as pool winners. At present, they sit two points off the Southeast Asians.
The UAE have been in sparkling form since the campaign resumed last week, winning all three of their matches with an aggregate score of 12-1. However, Vietnam have taken maximum points too, albeit from two games, first defeating Indonesia 4-0 and then Malaysia 2-1.
There remains also the chance for the runners-up to qualify as one of the best second-placed sides, although they would need a series of results in other groups to go their way.
“We realise that the task will not be easy, and we know that the path to the top of the group will not be paved with roses,” Salmeen said. “We are facing a strong and experienced competitor whose recent results confirm that they are performing to their best level, but despite all that we have great confidence in our abilities.
“We are ready to achieve what is required, God willing. We are just waiting for the support of our fans, who we trust will not fall short with us. And we, for our part, will fight with all our might to secure qualification for them and a well-deserved joy at the end of the match.”
The UAE opened the Group G restart ranked fourth, although they did have a game in hand over the other four teams in the pool. They kicked off with a 4-0 win against Malaysia on June 3, and then followed it with a 3-1 victory against Thailand, before moving to nine points from a possible nine with the 5-0 thrashing of Indonesia on Friday. All matches have been staged in Dubai.
Striker Sebastian Tagliabue, who against Indonesia struck a first competitive goal for his adopted country, said: “The team gained great confidence during the previous period. We played good matches and achieved great victories thanks to the solidarity of everyone, from the technical and administrative staff, players, and fans.
“We really appreciated the support from the Emirati football fans, and we expect from them unprecedented backing in the next match. We will do everything in our power, and I hope we succeed in accomplishing qualification and making our fans happy.”