Dubai: UAE Head coach Bert van Marwijk expressed his pride with his players' performances as the Whites marched to a fourth consecutive win, beating Vietnam 3-2 in the final match of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Group G on Tuesday.
The former Saudi Arabia and Australia manager fielded the more defensive minded Majed Hassan in place of Khalfan Mubarak, pushing central midfielder Abdullah Ramadan further upfield in a more creative role, and his changes paid dividends as Ramadan set up Ali Salmeen for the opening goal and supplied the through pass for Khalil Ibrahim to win a penalty that was converted by Ali Mabkhout to make it 2-0 before the break.
Mahmoud Khamis headed from point-blank five minutes after the restart to cement the UAE’s victory, but van Marwijk’s men had to survive a late scare as Nguyen Tien Linh and Tran Minh Vuong reduced the deficit in the final five minutes of the match, with the UAE holding for a 3-2 win at the final whistle.
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“Since the beginning I said, it will not be an easy task,” said Van Marwijk of his side’s journey in the Asian Qualifiers.
“We had to win all four matches after the restart to qualify, so I am extremely proud of my team and happy because we did it, I believe this team has a good future. In every game the players did their best and we kept improving game by game. They played very well; exactly the way I like to play and made everybody proud.
“We worked very hard in the last six months and succeeded in creating our own style, we want to keep improving and be at our best in the final round."
Vietnam striker Nguyen Tien Linh replicated his scoring exploits against the UAE, scoring the first of his side’s two late goals. A fifth goal of the Asian Qualifiers for the 23-year-old means he has equalled Nguyen Hong Son’s record of five goals in the Qualifiers, registered back in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers as the most for any Vietnamese player in history.
Tien Linh chose instead to focus on his side’s historic success in qualifying to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers despite the defeat, joining four other teams as best runners-up from the eight groups of the third round.
“The whole team fought very hard, despite facing the strongest team in the group and soon being led, the Vietnamese team showed a brave fighting spirit,” said Tien Linh.
“The end result is the most important thing for us. Despite losing, Vietnam still reached the third qualifying round of the World Cup for the first time in history. Hopefully, the whole team will continue to show good performances in the next round.”
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