UAE's Bert van Marwijk confident after 2022 World Cup qualifying draw
National team pitted in Group G alongside Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia
Bert van Marwijk says he is confident the UAE can progress to the next stage of qualification for the 2022 World Cup despite being handed a difficult second-round draw.
The national team, seeking to make the country’s only second appearance at a global finals, discovered their fate on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, when they were pitted in Group G alongside Southeast Asian quartet Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The UAE were seeded in Pot 1 for the draw.
Van Marwijk’s side will not play a competitive fixture when qualification begins on September 5, instead kicking off their campaign five days later, away to Malaysia. They then take on Indonesia and Thailand in a double-header in October, before travelling to Vietnam the following month.
The reverse fixtures begin in March and will finish with the UAE hosting Vietnam on June 9. The eight group winners automatically progress to the third and final stage of qualification, together with the four best runners-up. Matches in this round double as part of qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup, to be played in China.
Appointed in March as Alberto Zaccheroni’s successor, Van Marwijk has set qualifying for Qatar 2022 as his sole target. The former Saudi Arabia manager, 67, is currently enjoying his first training camp with the UAE squad, in Austria.
“We have a difficult task, but I'm confident we will be successful,” Van Marwijk said. “Vietnam made a very good impression at the last Asian Cup. They play attacking football and they have a team that is getting better.
“Thailand are the strongest team we could get from Pot 3, but it's an advantage that we know them very well. The UAE have played against them during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and also I know them because they were in the same group as the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. This is also the case with Malaysia.
“Right now we are already preparing the team in Austria for the upcoming matches. We have to make sure we do everything possible to be successful.”
The UAE played Thailand twice twice in the third round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup, defeating them 3-1 at home in October 2016 before being held to an ultimately costly 1-1 draw in Bangkok the following June.
The two teams met again in the group stages of the 2019 Asian Cup, held in the Emirates earlier this year, drawing 1-1. Then managed by Zaccheroni, the UAE eventually made the semi-finals.
The national team know Malaysia well, too, having shared a group at the same stage of qualification for the 2018 World Cup. In September 2015, they cruised to a 10-0 victory in Abu Dhabi before a wholly contrasting contest in Shah Alam two months later finished 2-1 in the their favour.
The UAE last played Vietnam in 2013, in qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup, winning both matches. The Vietnamese are the reigning Southeast Asian champions.
Meanwhile, although the UAE have no recent history with Indonesia, they were considered by many before Wednesday’s draw to represent the strongest team in Pot 5.
Updated: July 18, 2019 08:07 AM