Dubai: Following a meeting with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the UAE Football Association have announced the new dates for vital qualifying matches of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Fixtures had been postponed in reaction to the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the health and safety of players and spectators. Matches will now be played on October 8 and 13 and November 12 and 17.
The UAE will be up for a do-or-die battle against Malaysia in the first half of October. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also announced the proposed match dates for the remaining matches of the China 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
The qualifiers were originally scheduled to take place in March and June, but could not follow the set dates due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, the AFC, in consultation with world governing body Fifa, announced the new qualifying dates with the UAE hosting Malaysia in their Group G match on October 8, while Thailand takes on Indonesia the same day. The times for the matches are yet to be finalized.
Immediately after their match against Malaysia, the UAE will have to depart to play bottom-placed Indonesia on October 13 and then have nearly one month of further preparations before their next home fixture against Thailand on November 12, before signing off with their last home encounter against Vietnam on November 17.
Currently, Vietnam is in the driver’s seat in Group G as they hold a two-point lead over Malaysia in a fascinating group where five points separate the top four teams. Park Hang Seo’s side holds the top spot with 11 points, with Malaysia on nine and Thailand a further point behind.
However, a win against the Malaysians on October 8 could see a significant change as the UAE, who are fourth in the group with six points, trying to fight their way back. Secondly, the 1990 Fifa World Cup qualifiers still have an extra game in hand over the teams above them and a home win against Malaysia will put them back into the reckoning.
The UAE Football Association (UAEFA) is yet to name a successor to Serbian Ivan Jovanovic who parted ways by mutual consent after the coronavirus pandemic broke in March. Since then, a number of high-profile names have been linked for the UAE coach’s position, including Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic, Zoran Mamic, and Cosmin Olaroiu — all with Al Ain at some point of their careers — along with local talents like Abdul Aziz Al Anbari and Mahdi Ali.
The AFC has also assured that they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure the safety and well-being of all teams, officials, fans and stakeholders as well as Government travel and medical restrictions and will notify all parties should there be a need to reassess the match schedules due to the ever-evolving impact of the pandemic.
UAE fans will be backing the country as they make a push to appear at the second FIFA World Cup finals after competing in 1990 in Italy.