World Cup 2022 qualifier: UAE captain Walid Abbas expects tough test against Thailand
Emirates off to a perfect start in Group B of Asian qualifying with two wins from two ahead of match on outskirts of Bangkok
UAE captain Walid Abbas says his side must improve upon the performance in last week’s resounding victory against Indonesia when they face Thailand in the World Cup 2022 qualifier on Tuesday.
The national team, much changed under new manager Bert van Marwijk, got their Group G double-header off on a positive note in Dubai on Thursday, defeating Indonesia 5-0 at Al Maktoum Stadium to make it two wins from two to start the campaign.
Ali Mabkhout, now his country’s all-time leading scorer, scored a hat-trick to lift his tally to five goals in two qualifiers following his double in last month’s 2-1 victory against Malaysia.
However, the UAE know they will encounter their toughest test thus far at the Thammasat Stadium on the outskirts of Bangkok. Thailand are familiar foes, having held the Emirates to successive 1-1 draws in their past two meetings: their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Bangkok in June 2017 and at this year’s Asian Cup, in Abu Dhabi.
Thailand, meanwhile, have begun qualification with a goalless draw at home to fast-improving Vietnam and a 3-0 victory in Indonesia. They sit second in the group, behind the UAE.
Buoyed in particular by Thursday's second-half display against Indonesia - the UAE scored four goals after the break - Abbas is keen to offer an even better showing in Thailand.
“It’s very important for us. It’s about winning games; we don’t need to talk about how we play,” he said. “We should win and get points from the beginning of qualification. We have difficult games coming now, especially against Thailand, which will be even more [of a test].
“We hope to be better than these two previous games. But Thailand will be very difficult. We are travelling, the time changes and the recovery will need to be fast. We’re talking about the tiredness we have in the team, especially because we have played the league and then the national team.
“It will be hard - the Thailand game will be different, the atmosphere will be different, but we have to win the game. We hope to get the three points and be better.”
Abbas praised the impact of Van Marwijk, who has quickly refreshed an aging squad since his appointment in March. The Dutchman, who masterminded Saudi Arabia’s qualification for last year’s World Cup, has integrated several younger players, evidenced by the starting line-up against Malaysia, which included four players making their competitive debuts. Van Marwijk opted for the same XI against Indonesia on Thursday, with 34-year-old Abbas again given the armband.
“He’s a good coach,” the defender said. “He’s changed the system, so we need to time to adapt to it. There are 11 players who are new to the national team. This is only the beginning – when you want to build the team, you start at the beginning. I think, with this system that we are now playing, we are going to be better.
“I give my best every game. I want to help the team and they can help me. We all help each other. We need everyone, even the smaller players, to make a success.”
Asked about Mabkhout’s prolific start, Abbas added: “He’s a great striker. We need him. In every game he’s so important for us. We hope that he gives his best and will be even better for the team.”
Updated: October 13, 2019 01:46 PM