Australia v UAE: Mahdi Ali backs Omar Abdulrahman to bounce back and ‘make a good game’ in Sydney
SYDNEY // Mahdi Ali has backed Omar Abdulrahman to return to his best to lead the UAE challenge against Australia on Tuesday.
The national team’s lacklustre performance in the 2-0 loss to Japan in Al Ain last Thursday was epitomised by the struggles of Abdulrahman.
The Al Ain playmaker failed to assert himself in the manner usually associated with the 2016 Asian Player of the Year.
However, Mahdi Ali, the UAE manager, pointed out that everyone is entitled to a bad day, and expects Abdulrahman to be back to his best when the national team hunt a vital 2018 World Cup qualifying win in Sydney.
■ Road to Russia 2018: UAE’s qualifying campaign
■ It’s just not cricket: UAE’s quaint training facilities
■ Ange Postecoglou: Australia ‘expecting a tough game’
■ Key battles: Mark Milligan can provide hosts inside knowledge
“It can happen for the team or for any player that sometimes it is not your day,” Mahdi Ali said.
“Omar is a good player, a very important player for the team, and I think for most of the game he played well.
“It is very rare that he doesn’t have a good game, but I think tomorrow he will make a good game.”
After the loss to Japan, the UAE are fourth in Group B of the Asian qualifiers, four points off the two automatic qualifying places, and one behind third-placed Australia.
With four matches remaining in the group, it is vital the UAE return to winning ways, according to their manager.
“We know it is a very important game for both teams, especially so because of the last results, against Iraq for Australia, and against Japan for UAE,” Mahdi Ali said.
“If we want to keep our chances for this qualification, we have to have a good result to keep our chances till the end.
“I think it is very important to have a positive result, because otherwise even third place will be difficult for us. We are looking forward.”
The manager said he would take a final decision on whether to bring Ahmed Khalil straight back into the side following his calf injury after assessing how he trained at the Sydney Football Stadium on Monday.
Mahdi Ali also said his side were ready for whichever formation Australia line up in. Much has been made of Ange Postecoglou’s tactical switch to a back three for their drawn match against Iraq in Iran last week.
Australia’s manager, though, insists the move was not as drastic as has been made out.
“For the past three and a half years we have been building a philosophy where every time we just add a little bit more to it, rather than starting from square one,” Postecoglou said.
“Every so often we change the system and this is not the first time we have done that, even though people think it is.
“We are building things along the way which doesn’t make it such a drastic change as it is in some people’s minds.”
The UAE players will be able to adapt, according to Mahdi Ali.
“We are ready for both systems they play,” the Emirati said. “I don’t know the situation. I know playing in Iran was not easy, in terms of the conditions of the field. It was a tough game.
“Australia have good players. They have changed many players, especially in the defence, and I don’t know why, perhaps injuries.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport
Updated: March 27, 2017 04:00 AM