Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Mahdi Ali coy on future with UAE team, says 2-0 win over Iraq ‘is most important thing’

Rumours will continue to swirl regarding Mahdi Ali’s position as UAE manager after he was non-committal on his future following Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup victory against Iraq. John McAuley reports.
UAE manager Mahdi Ali looks during the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Iraq at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on November 15, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tom Dula t/ Getty Images
UAE manager Mahdi Ali looks during the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Iraq at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on November 15, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tom Dula t/ Getty Images

ABU DHABI // Rumours will continue to swirl regarding Mahdi Ali’s position as UAE manager after he was non-committal on his future following Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup victory against Iraq.

The UAE had earlier eased the pressure on their under-fire manager by winning 2-0 at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, thanks to goals from Ahmed Khalil and Ismail Matar, to move level on third-placed Australia in Group B and one point off leaders Saudi Arabia at the halfway stage.

Mahdi Ali’s tenure had been called into question in the immediate aftermath of last month’s resounding 3-0 defeat to the Saudis in Jeddah, with speculation linking former Al Nasr manager Ivan Jovanovic with the role. Mahdi Ali, who in 2012 took the reins of the UAE senior team after success with various age-group sides, has a contract that runs until 2019.

See also:

• Report: Ahmed Khalil and Ismail Matar get UAE back on road to Russia

• Round-up: South Korea’s blushes spared against Uzbeks; Saudis fume over Japan penalty

However, asked on Tuesday if he would be in charge of the side when the qualification campaign resumes against Japan next March, he said: “For me, I didn’t think about this issue. My most important thing was to do my duty and win this game.

“This was most important for us. Whether I am with the team or not be with the team, most important for this period was to win the game. This game was very important for the team, regardless if we continue. For me, I am doing my job and I thank everybody.

“I thank all the leaders I worked with in the federation. I thank everybody for supporting me and giving to me. I thank all the players, my staff, all the fans and all my friends who have trusted in me. I think this gives me more motivation. We will see what will happen in the future.”

Mahdi Ali’s side were deserved winners against Iraq in a match lacking much real quality, although they needed an injury-time goal from substitute Matar to make safe the points after Khalil had opened the scoring midway through the first half.​

“The players did their best and we had the initiative,” said Mahdi Ali, who suggested Omar Abdulrahman’s back injury was only a minor concern ahead of Al Ain’s Asian Champions League final first leg on Saturday. “We were the better side and we won the game at the end. I wish the future will be better for us.

“As I said before, it is always too early to speak about who will qualify from the group. We have to wait until the final rounds; the teams will cross each other until the end. Maybe some had easier fixtures at the start, but later it will be harder for them.

“This result is on our side, we got the result we wanted. Our situation is still good.”

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Updated: November 15, 2016 04:00 AM

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