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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Ali Mabkhout says UAE still have 'a little chance' to realise World Cup dream

Al Jazira striker, a goalscorer in the 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, is suspended for the national team's final qualifier against Iraq in Jordan

UAE striker Ali Mabkhout, right, scored the equaliser against Saudi Arabia before Ahmed Khalil's winner on 59 minutes. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
UAE striker Ali Mabkhout, right, scored the equaliser against Saudi Arabia before Ahmed Khalil's winner on 59 minutes. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Ali Mabkhout says the UAE will fight to give everything to realise their faint World Cup dream after scoring what he believes to be his best goal for the national team in Tuesday’s remarkable victory against Saudi Arabia.

The Al Jazira striker, the lead marksman in last season’s Arabian Gulf League, helped Edgardo Bauza's side come from behind at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium to seal a 2-1 win – a first triumph against the Saudis since 2007.

Mabkhout equalised for the UAE - an exquisite touch and finish - immediately following Nawaf Al Abed’s first-half penalty had given the visitors the lead. Ahmed Khalil then completed the turnaround with his own finely taken goal just before the hour.

The result means the UAE keep alive their slim hopes of making next summer’s World Cup. They remain fourth in Group B, three points off both Australia in third and the second-placed Saudis, although the former host leaders Japan on Thursday.

To retain any chance of reaching Russia, the UAE must defeat Iraq in their campaign finale in Jordan next Tuesday, while hoping for other results to go their way and for a significant swing in goal difference. Only top two teams qualify, while the third-placed side enter a series of play-offs.

Mabkhout, who misses the match in Amman through suspension, said the UAE are determined to give the World Cup bid one final push.

“We still have a chance,” he said. “It’s little, it’s not too much, but we will fight for this chance. We will give everything for it. The win means a lot for us, it’s good to get back to winning ways and we’ll do our best for the future. But we are sorry for the Saudi Arabia national team.”

Asked why he did not overly celebrate his goal, Mabkhout said: “This game is not a final and we’re not in a good way. We’re in a bad way, but a good way is coming. For me, it’s the best I’ve scored and I’m happy for it.”

Teammate Habib Fardan echoed Mabkhout’s rallying call. The midfielder was introduced in the 77th minute on Tuesday and played an integral role in his side seeing out the victory.

“Of course, it’s a good win for us,” Fardan said. “Because now all the UAE fans have hope in qualification after they were so upset. It will give us a good motivation for the next game and for all the UAE fans and all the players to give more and more.

“We're looking for the future and now we’ll try to do our best in the next game. Maybe we have a chance, maybe not, but we will give our best and after we'll see what happens.

“Nothing is impossible in football. We can see when Barcelona won 6-1 against Paris Saint-Germain [in last season's Uefa Champions League]. To be honest, it’s not easy. It’s hard. But nothing is impossible.

“We’ll try to win, we’ll try to also score many goals and in the end it’s not about us only. We have to wait for other results. We’ll do our best and if there’s a chance we hope we get it."