x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE want to improve Fifa ranking during Asian Cup qualifiers

Undefeated through four matches, UAE coach Mahdi Ali says his team will not pull any punches during their final two games even though they have already qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup, writes Amith Passela.

After serving a one-match suspension, Ali Mabkhout will be back on the front line of the UAE attack on Tuesday night against Vietnam. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters
After serving a one-match suspension, Ali Mabkhout will be back on the front line of the UAE attack on Tuesday night against Vietnam. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters

ABU DHABI // Having booked their tickets to Australia with two games still left in 2015 Asian Cup qualifying, the UAE coach Mahdi Ali said the team’s next target is improving their Fifa ranking to aid them for future tournaments.

The UAE boast a maximum return of 12 points from four games in Group E, and they next meet bottom side Vietnam, on Tuesday night, at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Secure victory and three points and Mahdi Ali’s side cannot be caught at the top.

“We want to have a better ranking in Fifa because this will help us in the draw for the next competition,” Mahdi Ali said.

“And a win here will be good because it gives more confidence to the team and also we want to finish on top of the group.”

The UAE have made remarkable progress in the Fifa ranking to reach 71 since Mahdi Ali took charge of the senior national team in August last year.

His goal is to take them to the top four in Asia. They are seventh in the continent behind Japan (44), Iran (49), Uzbekistan (55), South Korea (56), Australia (57) and Jordan (70).

Mahdi Ali’s men are on a roll and are unbeaten in 18 games, winning the Gulf Cup in January, the OSN Cup — a four-team friendly tournament — in Saudi Arabia in August and have now qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

“For me it doesn’t matter — 18 games or 10 games — but I would like to win every game we play,” he said. “Even the players are aware of it. Sometimes during the training we play small games and I am forced to cancel it because it becomes very competitive and tough as both sides try to win.

“This is a good sign from the players.

“We want to plan for the future and see exactly what opportunities we can provide the other players and see how the scenario in case we need to replace an injured player.”

Ali Mabkhout, the Al Jazira forward, is back after serving a one-match suspension and Ahmed Khalil, his partner in attack, and Ahmed Mohammed, the defender, both return having made full recoveries from injury.

“We will try to make some changes, but we will still have the strongest line-up as this game is important for us to win because we have other objectives, like improving our ranking and, like I said, finishing on top of the group,” Mahdi Ali said.

“So we will see how we can give some chances to the others to see how they perform. It all depends on how the game will unfold.

“Like all our opponents, we respect Vietnam. They gave us a hard time when we met them in Hanoi in our first game [the UAE won 2-1] in this competition.”

Nguyen Si, the assistant coach of Vietnam, said they have arrived with the same objective of improving their Fifa ranking.

“We come here with our hopes ended while the UAE have already qualified,” he said. “However, we have one more motivation and that is to improve the Fifa ranking.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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