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Confident UAE take on Malaysia in must-win Asian qualifier today

The UAE are set to resume their quest for a berth in the World Cup when they take on Malaysia in the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers match on Thursday.

The UAE need to win all four matches to move to the next round of the qualifiers and keep their World Cup dreams alive.

The hosts are currently fourth in Group G. They will play four matches in the second round. Only the winners and the four best runners-up will automatically advance to the next round.

“We have worked very hard for this game and we know anything less than a victory will not work. We have to win everything from the beginning till the end,” said Marwijk.

“I can’t change it, the players and all staff know we have to win,” added the Dutch, who is in his second stint as the UAE national team coach.

The UAE trail leaders Vietnam by five points and are only above Indonesia with six points from four games. The UAE have played one game less than all the other teams in the group.

He played down talk of a home advantage but welcomed the return of the fans to the stadium.

“I like to play on good pitches. It is an extremely good pitch. And as Ali said everyone is happy that fans are back. So it is always good to have spectators in the stadium.

“Home or no home, we have to perform. And there were more fans in Malaysia in the first leg,” apprised the coach.

Malaysia are playing away fixtures having been defeated by the UAE on their home turf in 2019, before the pandemic broke out and brought all the sporting action to a temporary halt.

UAE FA has allowed the fans to attend the Asian qualifiers in Dubai. The announcement came after the UAE FA got the approval from the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, and the Crisis and Disaster Management Team in Dubai.

The fans will be allowed at 30 per cent capacity with strict safety protocols. They are required to show their vaccination cards along with a negative COVID-19 report conducted 48 hours before the start of the match.

The UAE FA’s decision has been prompted by the need to extend their support to the national team, who are playing a crunch second round of the Asian qualifiers.

Commenting on handling the pressure of playing every game as a must-win clash, Marwijk said: “I think we need some pressure to perform better at the top. Players are used to these kinds of situations, so it should not be a problem for them, nor me.

“Moreover, I only think about the next match in my life. If you want to perform well, you can’t focus on too many things and players also know that. And there is only one thing which is that we have to win,” he apprised.

Starting with the clash against Malaysia on Thursday, the UAE will face Thailand four days later, which will be followed by two more matches on June 11 and 15 against Indonesia and leaders Vietnam respectively.

The second round matches have been crammed into a jam-packed 13-day fixture to make up for the time lost due to the pandemic. The second round kicks off after a long period of 18 months, having been procrastinated three times earlier in the wake of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s national team coach, Tan Shing Hui, vowed to leave no stone unturned in their bid to win the match and keep their qualification hopes alive.

Sheng Hui said, “I hope to give everything we have in the remaining matches of the World Cup qualifiers, and to be at the top of our focus, starting with the UAE , whom we face in the first match of the qualifiers after its resumption again.” Regarding his choice of playing with Kuwait and Bahrain in the friendlies as a part of preparation for the qualifiers, the Malaysian coach explained, “We chose the Kuwaiti and Bahrain national teams to play in the friendlies in order to adapt to the hot Gulf atmosphere, and because of the similarity of playing styles between them and the UAE team.

“And we benefited a lot from those experiences, and we look forward to implementing those benefits in tomorrow’s match,” he added.

The Malaysian national team player, Adel Zafwan Abdel Razek, said, “The UAE has been developing well since the last time we met their team. But on the other hand, we are also ready to face them and emerge winners from the match. They have good players, but Ali Mabkhout and Fabio Lima are the strongest and most distinguished in my view,” he added.

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