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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Mohanad Salem promises fans UAE will 'give our best' to extend 2018 World Cup chances

National team face Saudi Arabia and Iraq with only a slim chance of qualifying for next summer's finals in Russia.

Mohanad Salem, right, has said the UAE will fight to the very end of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign . Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Mohanad Salem, right, has said the UAE will fight to the very end of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign . Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Defender Mohanad Salem says the UAE will give everything to fight for victory against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday irrespective of their unenviable situation in World Cup qualification.

The national team host their Gulf rivals at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain with little more than an outside chance at making next summer’s global finals. At present, the UAE sit fourth in Group B, six points off a play-off berth with only two matches remaining. After facing second-placed Saudi, they round out their group campaign next week against Iraq in Jordan.

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Given the current standings, the UAE need to glean maximum points from the dual assignment, while also hoping for other results to go their way and for a significant swing in goal difference.

A second World Cup appearance appears therefore unlikely, although Salem has called upon his teammates to put in a performance that would prolong their chances.

“Away from any calculations or thinking about qualifying or not, our task is clear and every player in the team understands the magnitude of our responsibility,” the Al Ain centre-back said. “The team is at its best, and we promise fans of the UAE that we will give our best to achieve the desired result, which in turn will reflect positively on our next game against Iraq.

"The preparations are good and everyone has worked very hard and in the spirit of one team. The enthusiasm among the players is there to achieve a positive result. We hope that we will succeed in our quest and that the other circumstances will help us to secure a play-off spot and extend our hopes of qualification.”

The UAE recognise the size of the task that awaits them, though, not only in qualifying for the World Cup, but in going up against familiar foes Saudi Arabia once more. The two sides met most recently last October, when the Saudis registered a hugely comfortable 3-0 win in Jeddah. Should they triumph again, Bert van Marwijk's men will take a major step towards a first World Cup appearance since 2006.

"We respect the Saudi team because they are a big team and have a great opportunity to qualify directly, so we will fight for victory,” Salem said. “We know this well and we are prepared for it. We have to work with concentration and calm until we get what we want from the game."