The UAE national team face two crucial qualifier in five days as they attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Midfielder Habib Fardan spoke to the media about his side’s chances.
It all comes down to this. The UAE, second in Group A, conclude the second stage of qualification with games against Palestine tomorrow and Saudi Arabia next Tuesday, both at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The Saudis top the group, three points ahead of the UAE. Only the pool winners are guaranteed to progress to the final round of qualifying, although the four best runners-up do, too.
ALL OR NOTHING
Given the current situation, the UAE will most likely need two victories to be certain of progressing to the final round for Russia 2018. The country has only once before contested a World Cup, in 1990. Speaking at a recent Adidas event, Fardan said: “Now have two very important games against Palestine and Saudi Arabia, the two most important games for us. We should win both to qualify for the next round. We should sacrifice a lot to be at our best level to win those two games.”
“We still have the chance to qualify; it’s still in our hands,” Fardan said. “Of course, it won’t be easy, but we have great players who in difficult situations always play well, so I’m confident we’ll achieve a good result. Both games are so important, but we should focus only on Palestine because it’s the first one. We need to win this game, we have no other option. Then we’ll focus on Saudi Arabia.”
SAUDI ARABIA TURNAROUND
In Jeddah last October, the UAE were defeated 2-1 by Saudi, who scored a last-minute penalty for a vital victory. Fardan says his side are in a more favourable position now though. “Maybe we were not in shape against Saudi Arabia, not in a good situation,” he said. “These things happen, but against Palestine and Saudi we’ll be much better. Most of the players are in good shape and playing really well. Hopefully we’ll get the result. We’re at home, we have our fans – it will be an advantage for us.”
HANDLING THE HEAT
The UAE are used to playing important matches, with the majority of the current crop competing at the London Olympics in 2012. The following year, they won the Gulf Cup, while Mahdi Ali’s side also finished third at last year’s Asian Cup. “Of course there is a pressure, because the two games aren’t easy, but we are confident and we trust in ourselves that we can win both matches,” Fardan said.
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