You would be forgiven for thinking that the UAE are not a force on the international football scene. Indeed they have never qualified for a World Cup since it’s inception in 1930. However, as we countdown to the next World Cup, Russia 2018, there is every reason for hope that it will be a debut tournament.
The UAE are, along with 45 other teams, in the Asian qualifying section. It is a fiercely competitive section that won’t be decided until September 2017. However, the UAE are playing well, winning games and the country is getting behind them – the match against Palestine on Thursday was even a Snapchat story!
Here are four reasons why they just might do it.
1. Well positioned
With one match remaining, if the UAE defeat Saudi Arabia they will automatically quality for the next stage. The last match ended in a 2-1 victory to the Saudi’s in Riyadh, the return leg promises to be a tight affair. If they remain in group runner-up spot, they will have a play off to continue in the qualifiers.
2. Big Wins
Their most recent match was on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi against Palestine, that resulted in an 2-0 win for the UAE. However, they have score eight against Timor-leste, and indeed, they even managed to ship 10 past Malaysia!
3. Encouraging signs
The UAE defeated Iceland in a friendly game in January, by no means an announcement of the emergence of the UAE, however a victory not to be taken lightly either, given that Iceland have qualified for this summers Euro 2016 tournament in France. What’s more, the country is starting to believe.
4. Star Player
Ahmed Khalil, the Al Ahli striker and reigning Asian Player of the Year, is the country’s talisman. The 25 year old has score 14 gorals in 26 international caps and is pivotal to the UAE’s chances of reaching the World Cup.
Should the UAE make it into round 3 of the qualifiers, where 12 teams will be split into two groups of six, for home and away leg qualifiers between August 2016 and September 2017. Four teams from these groups automatically qualify while two teams still have a chance through the play-offs.