UAE thrash Yemen as 2026 World Cup qualification bid gathers pace

Sultan Adil of United Arab Emirates celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the AFC Asian Cup Group C match between Palestine and United Arab Emirates at Al Janoub Stadium on January 18, 2024 in Al Wakrah, Qatar. 

The UAE emphatically sealed their spot in the third round of World Cup 2026 qualifying and in the process booked a place at the 2027 Asian Cup by thrashing Yemen 3-0 in Dammam on Tuesday night.

With a perfect four wins from four, the UAE are certain of a top-two finish in Group H, with back-to-back wins over Yemen following earlier successes against Nepal and Bahrain. And with the process also deciding Asian Cup places, Paulo Bento's team are now assured of a berth at the Saudi-hosted tournament in three years time.

The UAE started with purpose in Saudi Arabia – Yemen are currently not allowed to host games due to the political situation there – with Sultan Adil’s long-range effort forcing Yemen keeper Aman Khairalah into action before Fabio De Lima just failed to convert Tahnoon Hamdan’s cross.

It didn't take long for De Lima to find the target, however, as his 14th minute free-kick beat Khairalah and nestled into the bottom corner.
Lifted by the goal, the UAE grew in confidence, doubling the lead in the 23rd minute when Bader Nasser’s cross from the left missed everyone and De Lima sneaked in to grab his second.

The visitors were on top and got further reward for a dominant display as Adil finished from close range after his initial shot had been blocked by a defender.

Yemen looked to make inroads early in the second half with Abdulwasea Al Matari’s powerful shot bringing a good save from Khalid Eisa, who then denied Haidar Khamisi following in.

The UAE will look to confirm top spot in the second round of qualifying in June when they visit Nepal, who were beaten 3-0 by second-placed Bahrain on Tuesday.

In the third round of World Cup qualifying, the AFC's top 18 teams will be split into three groups of six with the top two from each clinching a place at the expanded 48-team tournament being held in the US, Canada and Mexico. The third and fourth-placed teams will then enter another group stage for two more places. There is also potentially a spot available through an intercontinental play-off.

Elsewhere, Qatar also booked their spot in the third phase with a 2-1 victory over Kuwait, while Iran, Uzbekistan, Australia and Iraq also secured progress.

Almoez Ali twice put Marquez Lopez's Asian Cup holders ahead in Kuwait City to maintain his side's perfect record in Group A and seal top spot in the standings after India suffered a 2-1 loss against Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan also confirmed their place in the third round with a 3-0 win over Hong Kong in Tashkent, with goals from Eldor Shomurodov, Hojimat Erkinov and Oston Urunov ensuring they would take one of the two berths available in Group E.

They will be joined in the next round from the group by Iran, with both nations on 10 points after Mehdi Ghayedi scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Turkmenistan in Ashgabat.

Saudi Arabia, however, will have to wait until their meeting with Jordan on June 6 for another opportunity to book a place in the next round after Rustam Soirov's 80th minute equaliser earned Tajikistan a 1-1 draw against Roberto Mancini's side.

The Saudis would have qualified with a win in Dushanbe but still lead Group G by three points from Jordan, who thrashed Pakistan 7-0 in Amman.

Kyrgyzstan and Oman are locked together on nine points at the top of Group D after Kyrgyzstan eased to a 5-1 win over visitors Taiwan and the Omanis won 2-0 against hosts Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Syria demolished Myanmar 7-0 to move to within two points of Group B leaders Japan, whose meeting with North Korea was cancelled when the secretive state said last week it would not host the meeting with Hajime Moriyasu's side in Pyongyang.

Earlier in the day, Iraq and Australia confirmed their passage to the next round with 5-0 wins over the Philippines and Lebanon respectively securing their progress.

Iraq are certain to go through as one of the top two in Group F, where they lead Indonesia by five points after Shin Tae-yong's side claimed a 3-0 win over Vietnam.

Australia will progress from Group I ahead of Palestine, who were 1-0 winners against Bangladesh.

Son Heung-min was on the scoresheet as South Korea defeated Thailand 3-0 in Bangkok to continue to lead Group C by three points from China, who moved into second place with a 4-1 win over Singapore.

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