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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Bauza lauds UAE players' character but plays down 2018 World Cup chances

'We have six days to prepare the next game against Iraq,' manager says after 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia. 'It will be very difficult, we will try to give our best.'

Despite the UAE's win on Tuesday night, manager Edgardo Bauza, left, has his eye on the ball. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Despite the UAE's win on Tuesday night, manager Edgardo Bauza, left, has his eye on the ball. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Edgardo Bauza played down the UAE’s faint hopes of qualifying for the World Cup, but he believes the 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in Al Ain shows the national team have a bright future ahead of them.

Fine goals from the UAE forwards Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil offset a penalty for Nawaf Al Abed, Saudi’s playmaker, to give the home team a first win over their Gulf neighbours in more than 10 years.

While it harpooned the away side’s chances of making it to Russia next year, it stretched the UAE’s lingering hopes out, possibly until their final match, against Iraq in Jordan next week.

The uplifting display marked quite the turnaround in fortunes for Bauza who oversaw a tepid – and damaging – draw in Thailand in his first match in charge last time out.

The former Argentina manager lavished praise on his side, who were without the influential Omar Abdulrahman because of injury.

“The first thing I want to say is the attitude the players had, if they hadn’t had this attitude they wouldn’t have won,” Bauza said. “We have two very dangerous attackers and they showed that today scoring two high quality goals.

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“The little time we have to work together we did a really good job. With the passage of time and working together we can improve even further.

“Now we have six days to prepare the next game against Iraq. It will be very difficult, we will try to give our best.

"Let’s see if we can win and then see where we are in the table and have any chance of qualifying.”

The UAE are fourth in Group B of Asian qualifying, three points off Saudi, in second, and Australia, who lie third at present and play table-topping Japan on Thursday.

“The chance of qualifying is difficult, we depend on other results, but we will give it a try,” Bauza said.

“We will try to win the game that remains which will not be easy and then see how the other results go and see if we can reach the play-offs.

“The preparations [were about] simply making them understand they are representing the Emirates’ football and it is a very big responsibility.

“Just as with me and the coaching staff – we’ve taken on this challenge – and so have they. We are representing the whole Emirati football and so have to give everything."

Bert van Marwijk, Saudi’s Dutch manager, said his side had “a chance, but a very little chance” of making it to the World Cup now.

“I know that losing is a part of sport, but for me this is the most disappointing moment of the past two years, from the beginning till now,” Van Marwijk said.

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“In one game, we threw almost everything away with an unnecessary loss in Australia, and now we have another unnecessary loss.

“After the first 15 to 20 minutes, it seemed we were a little nervous, then you saw how we want to play football. In the last part of the first half we played very well.

“I was waiting for the second goal, and I thought in the second half we could continue that.

“I think in the second half we showed we could play football better than the opponent, but we lost too many duels, in the air and on the ground.

“That is also part of sport. Not only playing nice, beautiful football, but also the rest. We didn’t have that, and for me that was the reason we lost that game.”