DOHA, Reigning Asian champions Qatar will be looking to end their last Group A match on a high when they take on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Khalifa International Stadium here on Monday.
The two sides last faced in AFC Asian Cup semifinal in January, which Qatar won 4-0 en route to their maiden Asian title.
Qatar, ranked 55 in the world, has a superior head-to-head record against the UAE with 12 wins and 10 losses. The UAE are 71, according to FIFA’s latest rankings.
The hosts bounced back into the tournament with a determined 6-0 win over Yemen in the previous game after their 2-0 setback against Iraq in the tournament opener on November 26.
Such was their authority against Yemen that left-back Abdelkarim Hassan scored the competition’s first hat-trick.
The victory took the Annabis’ goal difference to +5, and they just need a draw against UAE to advance into the semifinal.
We want to win. I know even a draw is good for us, but it’s always risky to play for a draw. We are taking it as a final,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.
Following Qatar’s impressive run of wins at the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers since September, the defeat against Iraq was a huge blow for the side looking for their fourth title.
Barring the draw against India in Group E, Sanchez’s men won four to top the pool ahead of Oman.
The team has good qualities and capabilities. We are capable of sailing again,” said Abdelkarim.
UAE, 2017 finalists and also a three-time winner, will need a win to see them through to the knock-out stage.
However, they have a tough task at hand as their opponents are brimming with confidence.
In my opinion, Qatar are the best. But we also have a chance. We have to give our best against them,” said UAE’s Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk.
In other Group A match, Iraq, who has already qualified with two wins from as many matches, will lock horns with Yemen at the Al Duhail Stadium (5.30pm).
In Group B, tournament’s most successful side Kuwait face Bahrain, also at Khalifa Stadium (8pm), while defending champions Oman are up against three-time winners Saudi Arabia at Al Duhail Stadium (8pm).
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee