UAE v Australia: Mark Milligan of Baniyas knows first-hand the talent of Emiratis

“They have been together for a long time, they have been building up to this qualification period for quite a while. For the last two months they have been preparing for Japan and for us," Milligan said ahead of Tuesday's 2018 World Cup qualifier in Abu Dhabi.
From left to right, Australian players Aaron Mooy, Mark Milligan, Tomi Juric and Milos Degenek celebrate scoring against Iraq last week. Tony Ashby / AFP
From left to right, Australian players Aaron Mooy, Mark Milligan, Tomi Juric and Milos Degenek celebrate scoring against Iraq last week. Tony Ashby / AFP

Baniyas midfielder Mark Milligan says his Australia side must play to their maximum if they are to secure a positive result from Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against the UAE.

The Asian champions take on Mahdi Ali’s men at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium fresh from last Thursday’s 2-0 home victory in their Group B opener with Iraq. Australia last met the UAE in last year’s Asian Cup semi-finals, when the hosts triumphed 2-0 in Newcastle.

However, Ange Postecoglou’s side will come up against a confident UAE this week after they registered a shock 2-1 win against continental heavyweights Japan on Thursday in Saitama.

• More: UAE’s shifts focus from Japan to Australia | Road to Russia

Milligan, about to embark on his second season with Arabian Gulf League club Baniyas, knows only too well the talent the Emiratis possess.

“They are a good squad. They showed that in the Asian Cup and throughout qualifying so far,” he told Fox Sports. “They have been together for a long time, they have been building up to this qualification period for quite a while. For the last two months they have been preparing for Japan and for us.

“They are a very well-drilled squad. They have some very good individual players and over the last year or two they have come together as a team. We are going to have to be at our best in what will be difficult conditions, but it’s as hard for them as it is for us.”

Australia are currently ranked 57th in the world by Fifa, 17 places above the UAE. They go into Tuesday’s match as favourites, with Massimo Luongo, scorer of the opener against Iraq, insisting his side are focused only on getting the three points to maintain their perfect start to the final stage of qualification for Russia 2018.

“I don’t think anyone thinks [a draw would be enough],” Luongo said immediately after the Iraq victory. “Whether we approach it differently, I doubt it. Again the boss will brief us and we’ll analyse how we approach it, but every game is a game that’s there for the win.

“We’re going there to get three points, to play well and to show we’re a good side.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 4, 2016 04:00 AM

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