Al Ain: Ismail Ahmed has insisted that the United Arab Emirates' FIFA World Cup qualifying clash with Japan on Thursday will be no different from their previous encounter last September when they beat Vahid Halilhodzic’s side 2-1.
Despite Japan scoring after only 11 minutes, the UAE equalised just nine minutes later before a 54th minute penalty secured the win for game for Mahdi Ali's side, recording Japan’s only loss thus far.
The 33-year-old defender said: “It’s true that we recorded a victory against Japan on their home pitch in the first round of the qualification, but that is over.
“The circumstances will be different this time around. We should prove ourselves on the pitch and get all three points. It’s important not to lose.”
Japan are currently second in Group B with ten points, while the UAE trail behind closely on nine, and with the Samurai Blue now in Al Ain for the return fixture, the game is seen as being crucial to the hopes of either side of reaching Russia 2018.
“Any game at the moment is decisive and should be won and all the points taken. There is no room for defeat, especially when playing at home. We know our opponents and are well aware that it won't be an easy game, even at home and among our fans. But our aim is to secure yet another victory,” declared the Al Ain centre-back.
However, Ahmed recognises the danger of underestimating their opponents - especially given the experience that there is in the Jaoan squad.
“We know our opponents well. They have fast players and have a lot who play professionally in Europe. However, our respect for them does not lessen our value, as we have top players who know how to stay focused and have a fighting spirit.”
“We’ve left the clubs’ atmosphere. We are now with the national team and feel like a family - we carry and respect the national team’s banner.
“There is no such thing as Al Ahli, Al Ain or Al Jazira, as we all play for the national team. We will build on the high morale to secure a victory.”
MATCH DETAILS UAE v Japan Venue: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain Kick-off: March 23, 19:30 UTC+4