Doha, 6 December 2021 - Tunisia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could be tied on six points after the third round of group matches of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021.
The UAE need only a draw to seal a spot in the quarter-finals and top Group B. Nevertheless, after a shock loss to a stubborn Syrian side, Tunisia have to collect maximum points when they take on the UAE at the Al Thumama Stadium today at 6 PM.
A draw could also send the North Africans through depending on Syria losing or drawing against Mauritania.
One of the favourites to win the tournament, Tunisia beat minnows Mauritania in their opener, but against Syria, the Carthage Eagles were outworked and outplayed. Despite some players being out due to coronavirus and injuries, the team has received massive criticism from fans and the Tunisian media.
Tunisia's Mondher El Kabir, who had sounded optimistic since the start of the tournament, said the Eagles will not pay attention to what’s being said but remain focused on getting a result against the UAE.
“We do not bother with what is said about the team and the criticism of the technical staff. Our focus is on the team and to prepare for the next stage,” El Kabir said.
The 51-year-old tactician said the loss to Syria should motivate the players to extend their stay in the championship.
“We have no choice in the UAE match but to win, and in this tournament, you have only three days to prepare. So, we have to forget about the Syria match and think about the next match, and we have to play with the required concentration.
“We will play with the urgency and spirit required for such a crucial and decisive match. We have to play as a group to reach our goal,” he added.
On the missing players, El Kabir said, “The medical staff are still following up on the players’ physical condition, and they will give us the green light if they are ready to play. Ali Maaloul and Yassin Chikhaoui, are still recovering.
Regarding the UAE national team, El Kabir said, “We know the opponent well, so we must fight from the beginning in defense and attack to win and qualify for the second round.”
Seifeddine Jaziri, largely anonymous against Syria, said the players are focused on qualifying for the next stage and know only a win would matter against the UAE.
Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, has cautioned that only a win would seal qualification for Al Abyad. The UAE needed a late winner to beat Mauritania, and van Marwijk wants maximum points even though a draw would be enough to see the Emiratis through as group leaders.
“Normally, with two wins, you qualify. But if we lose, we are out, and we need at least a draw qualify. So it will be exciting, and we will play against a very good team. It is also important how the players recover from the last match,” the 2010 World Cup finalist said.
On the group’s situation, van Marwijk said anything is possible, and the Syrian team confirmed this with their win over Tunisia.
“However, We have to focus on ourselves and the character we had in previous matches.”