National football team need to beat neighbours on Tuesday and Iraq later, as well as hope for other results go their way to keep Russia 2018 dream alive.
WATCH: Ahmed Khalil says 'nothing is impossible' as UAE prepare for Saudi Arabia World Cup qualifier
Ahmed Khalil says the UAE have to believe “nothing is impossible” as they attempt to revive their slim chances of making the World Cup when they host Saudi Arabia next week.
The national team take on their Gulf rivals in Al Ain on Tuesday in the penultimate round of Group B fixtures knowing nothing more than a comprehensive victory will be enough to retain hopes of reaching Russia next year.
At fourth in the standings, the UAE lie six points off a play-off spot with two matches remaining in the final round of qualification. As such, they need to defeat Saudi Arabia and then Iraq on September 5 and hope for other results to go in their favour, together with a huge swing in goal difference.
It represents an unlikely task – new manager Edgardo Bauza began his tenure in June with a damaging 1-1 draw against Thailand – although Khalil called upon his teammates to not yet give up.
The striker, who is second in the scoring charts in qualification with 15 goals, has been training with the majority of the side in Dubai since last Friday. The UAE moved to Al Ain on Wednesday, where they will welcome to the squad the seven Al Ain players who were involved in Monday's Asian Champions League quarter-final against Al Hilal.
“We come with the national team now and this is the time we have to work, we have to focus on these two games,” Khalil said. “We will do what we do every time. We are in a difficult situation, but at the same time we have to know that nothing is impossible in football.
“We don’t have to stop, we have to continue and we hope that God gives us the win and we can continue. I believe and I trust the players and the team and as I told you, in football nothing is impossible. We have to work, do what we do and we hope we can continue.”
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The UAE face the Saudis at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium needing to respond to the 3-0 defeat they encountered when the two sides met in the corresponding fixture in Jeddah in October. Bert van Marwijk’s men sit second in the group, one point off leaders Japan, and with victory would take a huge step towards appearing at a first World Cup since 2006.
Hence, Khalil acknowledges the size of the task awaiting the UAE.
“In this time it is difficult,” he said. “We know and we respect the Saudi team, but also we have the chance and we can do it - the same as we played against them when we lost 3-0. But we can do it.”
Khalil, meanwhile, has spent the summer adjusting to life at a new club. The forward, 26, moved from the rebranded Shabab Al Ahli Dubai - he had spent his entire career with Al Ahli - to Al Jazira, the current UAE champions, on a free transfer last month.
“In football, sometimes you don’t know what is going to happen,” Khalil said. “But I’m with Al Jazira now and they are not a small team. I can just do the same I do every time: I have to continue, I have to work more to help the team improve more and more.”
As for targets for the 2017/18 campaign, Khalil added: “Same as every season. We have to work to be champions, to take the league and the cups and help the team. I hope to develop more and more. I’m ready for the new season. I have motivation, so that’s why I’m working hard.”