The UAE's hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa rests on their home matches, according to Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association. The UAE open their campaign in the final round of the Asian qualifying at home on Sept 6 against North Korea. Four days later they host Saudi Arabia, who have reached the last four World Cup finals. Rumaithi hopes the UAE can win both these games to get their campaign in Group 2 - the group also includes South Korea and Iran - off to a perfect start. He warned against a repeat of the disappointing home performances in the third round of qualifying.
In that closing stages of that round, the UAE won just one of their three home games. They beat Kuwait 2-0 but lost to Iran 1-0 and Syria 3-1. An 83rd-minute penalty by Ismail Matar in the final game in Al Ain against Syria booked the UAE's place in the final round on a better goal difference. If we do not make our home advantage count, it will be difficult for us," said Rumaithi. "We have always been strong in our home games, but in the last round we got just three points from nine at home.
"I hope those losses will serve as a wake-up call for the team. I believe people were right when some of them said that it is good we lost against Syria. We now get a chance to work on our mistakes and make sure we do not repeat them." The only time the UAE qualified for the World Cup the final qualifying round group looked similar. Saudi Arabia, North Korea, South Korea and the UAE were all in the final qualifying group for Italy 1990, with the UAE and South Korea advancing to the finals.
Rumaithi is confident the UAE can repeat that success. "I think we have got a good draw," he said. "We are lucky to be playing our first two games at home. That is our good fortune and you need that kind of luck in football. "We will now do our best. We believe that we really have a good chance if we stick together and believe in ourselves. All the players and the people around the team are working together towards the same goal.
"Qualifying for the World Cup is the dream of the UAE and if everything goes to plan I think we will qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa." Rumaithi, who took over the presidency of the UAE FA in May, ranked the qualification for the final round as the biggest achievement of the past season, which also the saw the UAE beach football team qualify for the World Cup in Marseille and the UAE win the right to host the Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010.
"Progressing to the final round of qualifying for the World Cup is, for me, our biggest achievement of the last season," he said. "I believe that the UAE were the best prepared and most stable side in the four-team group. We invested a lot of money and efforts into the preparation, although we are a small country with a small population and manpower. But we have managed to build this team with Bruno Metsu in the last two years. He has done a fantastic job.
"So, I would have been very unhappy if we had not qualified for the final round. With all the due respect to Kuwait and Syria, we knew from the first group match that we deserve to be among the two teams who will progress. "The second biggest achievement I think is equal. Winning the right to host the Club World Cup is great achievement, just as qualifying for the Beach World Cup. "We have done so many big things [in beach football] in two years, which is remarkable. Last year, we hardly qualified and this year we came first and qualified for Marseille. The next year, we will be hosting the World Cup.
"So I think it has been a good year for us and I am lucky. But the real hard work starts now. @Email:email@example.com