AFC Asian Cup 2019: United Arab Emirates vs Thailand - Preview

UAE NT before India in the 2019 Asian CupUAE FA

We could not ask for a more anxious filled ending to UAE’s final group match with the only result that the fans will be comfortable with would be nothing but a win.

It’s been a rough start for the hosts in their 2019 Asian Cup campaign given their performance in the first two matches. While they barely scraped a tie in the opener against Bahrain, the squad struggled against India a few nights ago, yet managed to score two and earn their first win in the lackluster performance.

However, it all comes down to this must win match against Thailand who defeated Bahrain to secure three points as well. The Thais known for the pace ability to remain steadfast from a tactics perspective will be no push over at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain.

Here is what you need to know prior to the kick-off.

Immediate history:

Since 2004, the sides have only met each other on 5 separate occasions; four being World Cup qualifiers and one friendly. Across the 5 matches, the United Arab Emirates managed to win twice, tie twice and lose a game to the Thai’s.  Interestingly, a positive for the Emiratis is that Ali Mabkhout had netted three goals in two matches against the ‘Changsuek’.

Thailand's performance in the Asian Cup:

“Thailand has not performed well at the Asian Cup so far. A very poor performance in the second half vs India resulted in a 1 - 4 loss and leaving Thai football fans in shock. Head coach Milovan Rajevac had been sacked the same night and a Thai asst. coach took over in the interim to see Thailand through the rest of the tournament.

He has already made several chances in the line-up, compared to the India game, including the GK. The display by the Thai’s against Bahrain has surely been better than the second half vs India. But the overall gameplay isn't as good and fluid as it could be or similar to the levels Thailand was known for under head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang (2014-17).

If Thailand wants to beat or earn a draw with UAE, they certainly have to raise their game. They will have to perform at their best and also need to play some football if they want to score.”

One’s to watch:

Thailand: “Chanathip Songkrasin, dubbed as "Thai Messi". The Thai playmaker had an outstanding year in the J-League. He has been named MVP of the season by fans and his team mates. And he was picked in the 2019 XI of the season by the J-League. He has amazing dribbling skills, he is quick, a good passer of the ball and even scores on a regular basis (8 goals in the J-League). He is definitely the best Thai player at the moment.”

UAE: Al-Jazira’s 23-yr-old midfielder Khalfan Mubarak looked like his normal self in the match against India compared to his performance in the first game. The midfielder looked comfortable on the ball, showing the trickery and vision that we have witnessed in the past. His ability to find Ali Mabkhout and play those quick touch passes makes him skillfully dangerous as he runs at defenders.

Perspective on how Thailand will approach this match:

“I'm really not sure with the interim coach, but I can imagine that he wants to try to balance things out between an offensive and defensive approach. Trying not to concede an early goal which could lead to a complete collapse of the Thai team.”

Sven Beyrich, a freelance writer, photographer and podcaster based in Germany. Founder of Thai-Fussball.

Emirati perspective:

“I think that the win against India will remove a lot of pressure on the players and they will play as we expect unless if Zaccheroni starts the game with a 4-3-3 formation.”

Mohammed Ahmed – Emirati Football expert; views can be found on twitter via @action_news.

Personal thoughts:        

UAE will be banking on the momentum gained from their hard fought win against India. As iterated multiple time previously, the lack of agile defenders in the squad is a major concern for the Emiratis. Any offense that can play quick balls on the ground could go beyond the defense at their leisure. Thai’s look like their offense could do just that.

Khalfan Mubarak pulled himself together in the second match as his playmaking capabilities was evidently visible against the Indians.

Additionally, Ali Mabkhout could make a serious comeback in being active in front of goal and eventually scoring as his recent record against the Thai opponents is categorically respectable.