UAE players attend a training session during their preparatory camp in Serbia.
Mohammad Abdullah, Gulf Today
A depleted UAE national football team began their training in Serbia for the third and the final round of the joint 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asia qualifiers on Sunday. Coach Bert Van Marwijk opted for Serbia for the overseas camp to oversee the preparation of the national team.
However, the UAE preparatory camp has been marred by the injury of the frontline players like Fabio Lima and Ali Salmeen. The duo of Salmeen and Lima had to leave the camp after picking up injuries. Lima is one of three Brazilians, who have been naturalised by the UAE to enable them to represent the Whites on the international stage.
Caio Canedo and Sebastian Tagliabue are the other two overseas players, who play for the UAE national team. The trio of the foreign players was instrumental in the UAE’s success in the second round of the qualifiers. Lima was in particular one of the most successful player in the second round of the qualifiers as he scored five goals in four games which were played within a period of 13 days.
The fixtures were stacked in a tight schedule to make up the times lost due to the pandemic. The second round of the qualifiers was postponed for the three times before finally getting under way in the UAE.
Van Marwijk, who defied all the odds stacked against them and guided the UAE to the third round, curtailed the squad to 24 players form the preliminary of 40.
The UAE needed to win all their four matches to advance to the third round. They put up a stellar performance to win all their games beating Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand to go finish the top of their group with the maximum points. The third and the final round of the Asian qualifiers will be played on Sept.2 and 7, Oct.7 and 12, Nov.11 and 16, Jan.27, 2022 and Feb.1, and March 24 and 29.
Twelve teams have made it to the third round of the qualifiers. Seven group toppers from eight groups and five best runners-up teams qualified from the second round. Qatar, who are the host country will not play the third round. As the hosts automatically qualifies for the event.
The 12 teams gave been divided into two group of six each. Group B is comprised of Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and China. The UAE were drawn with the soccer powerhouse of the Asian Iran, South Korea, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in the Group A. They begin their campaign against Lebanon on Sept.2 to be followed by a game against Syria five days later.
The top two teams will automatically progress to the World Cup finals while there will be play-off match for the third placed finisher form each group.
The winner of the play-off will advance to the intercontinental play–off for a berth in the final. After their camp in Serbia, the players will come to the country to play in the UAE Pro League, which begins on Aug. 19. But after playing first two round, the UAE will have another overseas camp on Aug.26, where they will give a final touch-up to their preparations before their first match against Lebanon.
Muhammad Obaid Hammad, supervisor of our national team, lauded the UAE team’s preparatory programme, saying: “The program developed by the technical staff of the team is very appropriate, especially as it includes two phases.
“The first is the Serbia camp, which will last for a week, while the second phase will be a week before the first match. Between the two phases players will also get some practice with the clubs in the local league,” he added.
Squad: Ali Khaseef, Fahad Al-Dhanhani, Adel Al-Hosani, Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Bandar Al-Ahbabi, Walid Abbas, Shaheen Abdul Rahman, Muhammad Barghash, Al-Hassan Saleh, Khalifa Al-Hammadi, Mahmoud Khamis, Hassan Al Muharrami, Abdullah Hamad, Abdullah Ramadan, Majed Hassan, Abdullah Al Naqbi, Khalil Al Hammadi, Tahnoun Al Zaabi, Cayo Canedo, Ali Saleh, Ali Mabkhout and Sebastian Tigali, Zayed Al Ameri and Yahya Al Ghassani.
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