The UAE’s bid to make a second World Cup ended in disappointment on Tuesday when they lost 1-0 to Iraq in Jordan.
The national team, sitting fourth in Group B and already with only a slender chance of reaching Russia, needed a convincing win in their campaign finale at the Amman International Stadium, but ultimately came up short. It extends the UAE’s quest to reach another World Cup to at least 32 years, with their only appearance thus far coming in 1990.
The UAE's faint hopes of earning a play-off place looked doomed from the 28th minute, when Ayman Hussein put Iraq in front. The striker, prolific for his country at Under-23 level, finished off a neat move across the UAE penalty area by powering home Walid Salem’s cross.
The UAE were missing a number of regular starters through injury and suspension, including Asian player of the year Omar Abdulrahman and striker Ali Mabkhout.
The absentees appeared to affect Edgardo Bauza’s side, who took until the 42nd minute to muster a shot on the Iraq goal. When they did, goalkeeper Mohammed Gassid parried over the crossbar Ahmed Khalil’s long-range effort.
The UAE improved slightly in the second half, but could have conceded soon after the break when goalkeeper Khalid Essa spilled a shot only to recover to block Hussein’s follow-up. On 70 minutes, substitute Tariq Ahmed tested Gassid, but the UAE did little else to trouble their opponents.
The result means they finish fourth in the group, at least three points off even a play-off spot. At present, Saudi Arabia occupy that position in third but, should they defeat Japan in Jeddah late on Tuesday, they will leapfrog Australia into second – the final automatic qualification berth. Japan have already been confirmed as group winners.