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UAE in fine form ahead of Malaysia tie


Kuala Lumpur: United Arab Emirates will carry winning form into the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 after registering back-to-back victories over Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka in friendlies matches played on Friday and Saturday.

Further good news for head coach Bert van Marwijk, who will be leading the UAE into competitive action for the first time, was the return of UAE talisman Omar Abdulrahman after a long injury lay-off.

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Dutchman van Marwijk, who replaced Alberto Zaccheroni after the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, saw his tenure getting off to a winning start as his side defeated Dominican Republic 4-0 at the Bahrain National Stadium on Friday.

Al Wahda defender Abdullah Jasim put the UAE ahead in the fourth minute and Khalil Al Hammadi doubled their advantage in the 18 minute, and then scored his second of the night at the half-hour mark. Al Ain midfielder Bandar Al Ahbabi completed the scoring five minutes from time.

It was another pleasing night for van Marwijk on Saturday as the UAE ran out 5-1 winners over Sri Lanka with Ali Mabkhout scoring a hat-trick. Ahmed Berman and Ali Saleh added one each.

The match against Sri Lanka, who are also bound for the Asian Qualifiers, gave van Marwijk a chance to assess Abdulrahman with the midfielder coming on as a second half substitute.

Abdulrahman tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament while appearing for Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal last October, which forced him to miss the AFC Asian Cup on home soil, with the UAE's campaign ending in the semi-finals.

He was included in the national squad despite not having played competitively for new club Al Jazira, who he has just signed for, as van Marwijk wanted to assess him before UAE begin their Asian Qualifiers Group G campaign against Malaysia on September 10 in Kuala Lumpur.

Also in the group are Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam with the UAE needing to finish in the top two to advance to the third round of qualifying, which will seal them a place in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and take them a step closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.

The UAE, who will return home from their training camp in Bahrain on Sunday, have qualified for the FIFA World Cup Finals once - in 1990. They will travel to Kuala Lumpur on September 4.

Photos: UAE Football Association

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