With the UAE and Uzbekistan both already through to the 2011 Asian Cup, their final qualifying game in Tashkent tomorrow night is bereft of any real significance. But the incentive for the UAE is to bounce back from a disappointing 18 months on the international stage. Srecko Katanec's men earned their ticket to the finals of the tournament in Qatar with two wins over Malaysia, the other team in the three-nation Group C, while Uzbekistan have nine points from three games, which includes a 1-0 win over the UAE in Sharjah last year.
That Uzbekistan defeat came during a disappointing period for UAE football, where they earned just one point from eight games of 2010 World Cup qualifying. The team has been on the mend since, with Katanec leading the side to victories over Manchester City and the Czech Republic in friendlies. Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the UAE Football Association, is hoping the team can keep that momentum going and give their confidence a boost with a win over the Uzbeks, ranked 38 places higher than the UAE, who are 113 in the Fifa world rankings.
"A win will do wonders for the team's confidence as Uzbekistan are a higher ranked team than us and it will give us an opportunity to prepare in a very positive atmosphere for the Gulf Cup in the summer," said al Rumaithi. Ismail Rashid, the team mana-ger, also insisted the players will not be taking the game lightly, adding: "A positive result in this match will go a long way towards restoring self-confidence. It will also help in restoring the image of the team, which has suffered over the last year or so, and develop the culture of winning."
The UAE are missing Ismail Matar, Obaid Khalifa and Mahmoud Khamis with injuries, while Basheer Saeed was given permission to opt out of the game for personal reasons. Mohammed Qassim is unavailable to due his commitments with the military. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org