2018 World Cup qualifying: UAE manager Mahdi Ali focused on Australia, not his future
AL AIN // Mahdi Ali said he is focused on preparing the UAE to face Australia on Tuesday, and will not be resigning as manager following the damaging 2-0 World Cup qualifier loss to Japan.
Goals from Yuya Kubo and Yasuyuki Konno gave Japan the three points against a faltering national team, in front of 23,700 supporters at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
The defeat left the home side fourth in Group B, four points behind Saudi Arabia, who lead the pool, and Japan, who currently occupy the second automatic qualifying berth.
Each of the sides have four matches left as they attempt to seal a place in Russia next year. The idea of the UAE making it now seems increasingly unlikely.
The national team face Australia in Sydney next week. It is another crucial encounter, as Australia currently sit third in the table, a point ahead of the UAE.
Any decision on the manager’s position will be left to the UAE FA, according to the man himself.
“It is not the time to tackle that issue here,” Mahdi Ali said. “In five days’ time, we have another game, and it is the decision of the association to take, not me.
“I am a professional coach, so I am not thinking about [resigning]. We have another game coming. We lost only three points here. We have not lost our chances to qualify.
“There are still 12 points to play for. I think we have to win the rest of the games, and we have to work hard to achieve our goals.”
Despite a largely insipid display in Al Ain, Mahdi Ali said he felt his side controlled large periods of the match against Japan, whom they had beaten 2-1 in the reverse fixture in Saitama six months previously.
“The match was difficult for us,” he said. “We controlled the first half for much of the time, and created chances, but we did not score.
“In the second half, the same. Japan made use of two attacks and scored two goals. The match was hard, and despite the situations we faced, I’d like to congratulate my players for their efforts. Now we are looking forward.”
For Japan, victory gave them a three-point cushion over Australia, who drew 1-1 with Iraq on neutral territory in Tehran earlier in the day.
The win was well-received by a joyous travelling support, as well as Vahid Halilhodzic, their manager.
The 64-year-old Bosnian cut a theatrical and, at times, frustrated figure in the Japan technical area, but he was delighted by the manner of the performance.
“That was an important victory, but the result in the next game is going to be even more important,” Halilhodzic said.
“This victory against the Emirates will not count for anything if we lose against Thailand. I have told this to the players.
“We will need to work very hard, and make sure we don’t do any stupid things in the next games.”
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Updated: March 23, 2017 04:00 AM