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War Elephants, UAE face off in high-stakes battle

War Elephants, UAE face off in high-stakes battle

FOOTBALL: The War Elephants face a make-or-break battle in Dubai with the hosts United Arab Emirates in Group G of the Asian qualifiers for the Fifa 2022 World Cup this evening (June 7) with both teams in with a chance to dislodge Vietnam from the top spot in the pool.

FootballWorld-Cup
By Bangkok Post

Monday 7 June 2021, 04:14PM


Thailand striker Adisak Kraisorn takes part in a training session ahead of tonight’s game against the UAE. Photo: Bangkok Post.

Thailand striker Adisak Kraisorn takes part in a training session ahead of tonight’s game against the UAE. Photo: Bangkok Post.

Vietnam, who have 11 points, will also be action for the first time in Dubai tonight when they take on bottom-placed Indonesia at Al Maktoum Stadium.

The UAE and Thailand are tied on nine points and both sides look to close the gap on Vietnam or even topple them off the top of the group should the latter lose.

At the end of the second qualifying stage, eight group winners and four best second-placed will make it to the final phase of the Asian qualifiers.

Thailand and the UAE had contrasting restarts to their respective qualifying campaigns, with the hosts hammering Malaysia 4-0 on Tuesday, when the War Elephants let Indonesia walk away with a point following a 2-2 draw.

With Vietnam just two points ahead and having played one more game, Thailand will be eager to repeat their 2-1 win in the first leg in October 2019. Back then it was veteran striker Teerasil Dangda, missing from the current squad through injury, who opened the scoring for the War Elephants. Ali Mabkhout equalised at the stroke of half-time but Ekanit Panya won it for Thailand six minutes into the second period.

Thanyapura

Under head coach Akira Nishino, Thailand have not had the best of times recently, failing to win any of their three matches since that UAE victory. A 2-1 reversal against neighbours Malaysia was followed by back-to-back draws against Vietnam and Indonesia.

Scorer in the first game, Mabkhout continues to impress for the UAE, his brace against Malaysia sending him top of the Asian Qualifiers scoring charts with eight, level with Japan duo Takumi Minamino and Yuya Osako, but also making him the second-highest scoring active footballer in international football with 73 goals, behind only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Meanwhile, Thailand striker Adisak Kraisorn, who netted the second goal against Indonesia on Tuesday, is convinced the War Elephants can pull off the needed victory at Dubai’s Zabeel Stadium tonight.

“We didn’t have an ideal preparation back home because of the COVID-19 cases in the squad and the result against Indonesia wasn’t what we had been hoping for, but this has made us even more eager for wins in our two remaining qualifying games here,” Adisak said yesterday.

“Right now, we are in a very positive frame of mind. We don’t want to disappoint our fans, so we will be trying our best against the UAE and Malaysia. We are keen to progress to the next round.”

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