After a dream start in Tokyo, reality came knocking in Abu Dhabi.
Only five days after a sensational 2-1 win away to Japan, UAE footballers were brought down to earth after a 1-0 defeat to Australia in Group B of the AFC 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
It is a familiar feeling for coach Mahdi Ali and his players. At the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, the UAE defeated then champions Japan on penalties in an epic quarter-final clash, only to lose the semi-final to the home team, who would go on to win the competition.
A loss to the champions of Asia, and a close one at that, is certainly no shame for the Emiratis. Yet one of the UAE’s biggest crowds in recent years came to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, more in expectation than just hope. In the past, fans have been criticized for not showing interest in the early stages of qualifying campaigns or even tournaments and only getting on board once the team is in a favorable position.
Not yesterday. Around 40,000 fans braved a horrendously hot and humid night to back the Whites, the stadium filling up two hours before kickoff. A stirring rendition of the national anthem and noisy support throughout would prove not enough, however.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر