Bert van Marwijk confident 'ambitious' UAE can reach 2022 World Cup

Dutchman appointed national team manager this week for a second stint

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 21 – 2019 :- Left to Right - Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi , UAEFA Vice Chairman giving football t-shirt with the printed name of Bert Van Marwijk , UAE National Team Head Coach during the press conference held at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by John
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Bert van Marwijk says the draw of guiding the UAE to the 2022 World Cup provided the motivation to return to the national team for a second stint.

The Dutchman, 68, was announced on Monday as successor to Jorge Luis Pinto, having agreed what is believed to be a two-year contract. The deal, which comes little more than one year following the former Netherlands and Saudi Arabia manager's dismissal, is to be finalised upon his arrival in the Emirates this week. He marks the UAE's third appointment this year, after Ivan Jovanovic and Pinto.

Speaking on Tuesday to Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad, Van Marwijk said: "Until my departure last year, I was able to work really well in Dubai, with excellent facilities and a young, ambitious group of players.

"For me, it is important that I see perspective: if it was purely for the money I could have taken another job. But playing a World Cup remains something fantastic. I have experienced it with the Netherlands and Australia. I believe it is also possible with the United Arab Emirates."

Van Marwijk’s greatest achievement to date remains guiding the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Spain, while he also led the Saudis to the 2018 global finals – the country’s first appearance at a World Cup in 12 years. However, he was sacked before the tournament, although he did eventually take charge of Australia in Russia. Always to be a short-term deal, his side failed to emerge from their group.

Van Marwijk was initially appointed as UAE manager in March last year, but left nine months later following the team's exit from the group stage of the Gulf Cup of Nations.

By that time, Van Marwijk had overseen four qualifiers in the second round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, winning two and losing two. After the campaign was postponed earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE remain fourth in Group G, five points off leaders Vietnam, although they have played one game less.

The qualifiers resume in March, with the national team first hosting Malaysia and then travelling to bottom-placed Indonesia. They round off the group in June, with home matches against Thailand and Vietnam.

Only the top team are guaranteed to advance to the third and final round, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight groups. The UAE have once previously appeared at the World Cup, in 1990.

On the current standing in Group G, Van Marwijk said: "That position is quite distorted. We have six points now, but played one game less than the rest: if we win it, we will be second.

"Moreover, three of our last four games are at home. The No 1 qualifies; the No 2 has a chance through the play-offs. I see opportunity otherwise I would not have taken the job again."