x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bathenay's mission impossible

With just a single point from four games, the UAE have an almost impossible task ahead as they chase their dream of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

With just a single point from four games, the UAE have an almost impossible task ahead as they chase their dream of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. There is a great resolve in the side, though, to script a rise up the table. "There is nothing impossible in football," said the UAE's French coach Dominique Bathenay, mirroring the views of his squad as they prepared for Saturday's match against North Korea with a 2-1 win over Beijing Hongdeng, who play in League One, the second tier of Chinese football, in Beijing on Monday night.

Ahmed Khalil, Asia's best youth player, opened the scoring for UAE and Ismail Matar struck the winner in the 84th minute after the Chinese had equalised in the 72nd minute from a penalty. "Of course, we understand that we are in a very difficult situation," added Bathenay. "We will be playing against a very strong side at home and they will have their fans behind them. "But the match against North Korea is our last hope. We cannot do anything but play for a win. Like I said, nothing is impossible and we have to stay positive and cling to our hopes.

"I have great confidence in the players and I am sure they will fulfil their responsibilities. I am positive they will put up a strong performance in Pyongyang and get the result we need." The UAE have been training in China for Saturday's match since last Friday, getting acclimatised to the colder weather they will encounter in North Korea. Bathenay's side also won their second warm-up in the Chinese capital yesterday, defeating League One team University of Beijing 3-0.

Matar again figured among the goalscorers, slotting the second in the 37th minute after Mahmoud Khamis had opened the scores in the 19th minute. Ismail al Hammadi hit the third in the 66th minute. The team fly to Pyongyang today where a victory against North Korea would serve as a huge boost for the game against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on April 1. The UAE lost against both sides at home by an identical scoreline, 2-1. They crashed to a 4-1 defeat in South Korea in their next game before opening their account with a 1-1 draw against Iran in November. They are bottom of Group 2, five points away from third-place and a play-off spot.

Meanwhile, Mazyar Zare's late goal helped Iran beat Kuwait 1-0 in a friendly at Al Kuwait Stadium. Iran, who are in Group 2 along with the UAE, were preparing for their upcoming qualifier against Saudi Arabia on Saturday. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae