UAE star Omar Abdul Rahman says another victory over Japan is imperative in order to boost the nation’s World Cup dream.
“All we’re thinking about is beating Japan again because that’s the key to qualifying for the World Cup,” said Abdul Rahman in an interview with Fifa.com on Tuesday ahead of the crucial World Cup 2018 qualifier in Al Ain on Thursday.
All Mahdi Ali’s side need to do is take inspiration from their last two outings against Japan.
The UAE recorded an impressive 2-1 Group B win in Japan last year having beaten the Blue Samurai in the Asian Cup quarter-finals on penalties in Australia in 2015.
With the World Cup the main target though, Adbul Rahman has no qualms admitting how important Thursday’s match (kick-off 7.30pm at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium) is.
The UAE at the halfway stage of qualifying have nine points, level with Australia and just a point behind Saudi Arabia and Japan. The top two go through to Russia automatically, while the third placed team enters inter-continental play-offs.
“Every match is important, but this one is the key to qualification. We have to forget about our win in the away game, though it gave us confidence in our abilities. We want to come away with the three points, which will allow us to move in front of the Japanese and to close the gap on first place,” said the afro-haired star.
Ahmad Khalil netted a deadball brace in Japan, the first a sumptuous curling free-kick, the winner a cool-as-ice ‘Panenka’ penalty, as the UAE recovered from a goal down for a famous victory.
And Abdul Rahman believes the UAE have the ability to beat the Japanese once again.
“We’ve got the weapons to go out and win this match,” he said.
“We’re at home and in front of our fans, who are always there to support us and for whom we always give our all. And then we’ve got our fighting spirit, which will be there from start to finish,” asserted Abdul Rahman, who is of the view that this new generation of UAE footballers can achieve at the highest level — and that they will strive fervently to fulfil their aspirations of making it to the showpiece.
The UAE’s sole World Cup appearance came at Italia 1990.
“We’ve played a number of high-level matches and that’s given us a lot of self-confidence. We’ll be giving our all to make it to the World Cup,” said Al Ain playmaker Abdul Rahman.
“It’s not an easy task, but we will try to fulfil the dreams of millions of people. I’ve been dreaming for years of playing in the World Cup and I expect to make it happen,” said the 25-year-old Asian Player of the Year, who added he was delighted to land the individual accolade.
Abdul Rahman said: “It’s important for players to win individual honours because it motivates them to go out and give their best on the pitch. I was pleased to win the trophy, which is reward for a lot of hard work. My goal now is to help my country qualify for the World Cup.”
UAE will however miss the services of fellow Al Ain midfielder Amer Abdul Rahman for this clash. Coach Ali has been forced to to leave Amer out after he sustained a knee injury during training on Sunday.
“I wished to continue in the team after being called-up to the national squad, but I have full confidence in the rest of the players led by coach Ali, to show their best in order to achieve the desired results,” said Amer, modestly adding that his absence won’t affect the team’s chances.
“I think all the teams have the chance to qualify as winners of the group,” he said.
“However, if we are going to do that, we need to achieve a positive result against Japan.”
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