Bert van Marwijk has reminded his UAE side that their bid to reach the next round of World Cup qualification remains half complete, as he considers only victory as enough against Indonesia on Friday.
The national team, second in Group G, take on the bottom side in Dubai knowing another three points keeps qualification in their own hands.
Should the UAE triumph at the Zabeel Stadium, thus making it three wins from three since the campaign resumed in the emirate last week, they would then go into Tuesday’s finale with group leaders Vietnam in strong shape. A fourth victory would seal progression to the third and final round.
Currently two points ahead, Vietnam take on fourth-placed Malaysia on Friday at Al Maktoum Stadium. Only the group winners are guaranteed to advance to the next stage, together with the four best runners-up from the eight pools.
“It’s like the last two matches: until now we have nothing,” Van Marwijk said on Thursday night. “And we take every opponent very seriously, also Indonesia.
"So we prepare in the same way. We have also a lot of respect for Indonesia - they played a draw against Thailand, so it will not be easy.”
The UAE defeated Indonesia comfortably in the corresponding fixture in October 2019 – the campaign was last year postponed repeatedly – winning 5-0. That match also took place in Dubai. In the past week, Indonesia have held Thailand to a 2-2 draw, while they lost 4-0 to Vietnam on Monday.
Understandably, Van Marwijk would not disclose whether he plans to make significant changes to the line-up given the short turnaround in fixtures. On Monday, he opted for the same starting XI that began against Malaysia, except for Caio Canedo coming in for the injured Khalil Ibrahim. Ibrahim is again available for selection.
Asked how he planned to speak to Ali Mabkhout following the UAE record goalscorer’s uncharacteristically off night against Thailand, in order for the striker to regain any confidence lost, Van Marwijk smiled: “By not talking about those things with him.”
Mabkhout remains his country’s leading scorer in World Cup 2022 qualification, with eight goals. Only Japan’s Takumi Minamino (9) has more in this round.