West Asia UAE

UAE coach Mahdi Ali: Fans understand importance of their role

UAE national team manager Mahdi Ali on Wednesday spoke of urged supporters to bring their energy ahead of the country’s crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Japan.

The West Asian nation are just one point behind Group B leaders Saudi Arabia heading into the second half of the round, occupying fourth place behind Australia on goal difference.

“The fans are our partners and have a very big effect in supporting the team to achieve our dream of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia,” Ali told reporters the day before the match. “They know how important their role is during the match.”

Just months after their stunning 2-1 upset win at Saitama Stadium, UAE will be looking for a similar result at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Japan, for their part, will be looking for revenge against the team that not only embarrassed them on home soil, but bounced them from the 2015 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals in penalty kicks on the way to a historic third-place finish.

“This match is very important to us and to Japan,” Ali continued. “We want to get out of it with a positive result to increase our chances of finishing in the top two of the group and reaching the final tournament.”

Despite the absence of midfielders Majed Hassan and Amer Abdulrahman due to injury, the architect behind UAE’s recent international success continued to express trust in his side.

“The players are capable of providing good performances in the rest of the round, which will be crucial considering that four teams have an equal chance of advancing,” Ali noted.