Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

UAE v Indonesia: Manager Bert van Marwijk asks team to expect the unexpected in World Cup 2022 qualifier

Return of Ahmed Khalil one of the many positives for hosts before Thursday's clash at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai

UAE manager Bert van Marwijk with the team at the Al Wasl Sports Club. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UAE manager Bert van Marwijk with the team at the Al Wasl Sports Club. Chris Whiteoak / The National

UAE manager Bert van Marwijk has demanded his side not underestimate Indonesia, saying they must be fully motivated when the two meet in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier in Dubai.

The national team, ranked 101 places higher by Fifa, host the Southeast Asians at the Al Maktoum Stadium having opened their Group G campaign last month with a comeback victory against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. Indonesia, meanwhile, began with two straight defeats, losing 3-2 to Malaysia and 3-0 to Thailand – both at home.

As such, the UAE go into the match as heavy favourites, as they look to gain a second successive win before next Tuesday’s testing qualifier against Thailand near Bangkok.

“Two of the most important things for tomorrow are that we don’t underestimate Indonesia and that we are ourselves,” said Van Marwijk, who takes charge of the team for a second competitive fixture.

“It will be a difficult game, because Indonesia lost two times already. But they were a little bit unlucky; they had chances against Thailand when it was 0-0 and were leading 2-1 against Malaysia but lost late goals. It will not be easy. We have to concentrate tomorrow 100 per cent.

"Indonesia are a team from which you can expect everything. They are very emotional in the game; they have some fast players; creative players; they are unpredictable. So it’s not easy.

“But I trust my team. We are improving, I see it every day in the training - we work very hard. The most important thing I have said already, is that we have to be ourselves and play our game.”

The squad has been boosted by the return of Ahmed Khalil following fitness and personal issues, while Omar Abdulrahman is continuing to progress well having missed most of the past 12 months through injury.

It means Van Marwijk can for the first time call upon both the 2015 and 2016 Asian player of the year, although neither is expected to start.

“Omar’s an exceptionally good player, you see that every moment you work with him,” the Dutchman said. “We were on a training camp with him in Bahrain and had to be very, very careful. And then afterwards I hoped he would play more at his club, but he played only 15-20 minutes in one match, maybe 60 minutes [overall]. He’s getting fitter and fitter, and I’m happy. He’s maybe 90 per cent.

“Khalil’s had some issues that everybody knows for the past few weeks and I’m very, very happy he’s back. He’s made a very good impression; he works unbelievably hard. I like him as a player and also as a person, so I’m happy he’s in the squad.”

Van Marwijk, appointed in March, said there were a few fitness concerns within the camp, but that everyone could be available for selection on Thursday. He said he also anticipates an improved display from his side from the opener against Malaysia, when the UAE conceded inside the first minute and were fortunate not to go further behind before they responded to triumph 2-1.

“The motivation must not make any difference whatever opponent you have,” Van Marwijk said. “We have to learn to get motivation in every game, not matter the importance of the game or the circumstances, out of ourselves. After the last game in Malaysia I only talked about this game, so that was the moment we started already preparing for Indonesia in our head.

“I was disappointed about our performance in the first 30 minutes in Malaysia, because I like to play football, I like to play offensive football and I like to have the ball. But I also like to win.”

Updated: October 9, 2019 03:05 PM

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