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The UAE Olympic players celebrate reaching the London Olympics after beating Uzbekistan in March.
Sammy Dallal Photographer
The UAE Olympic players celebrate reaching the London Olympics after beating Uzbekistan in March.

UAE Olympic side to take on Great Britain at Wembley

Mahdi Ali's men wiill take on host nation at Wembley Stadium after being drawn together in Group A.

The UAE Olympic football side have been drawn with host nation Great Britain at the London 2012 Games.

The draw held at Wembley today saw the UAE placed in Pool A, where they will also face Senegal, who beat Oman in a play-off on Monday night to clinch their place in the tournament, and Uruguay.

They will begin their campaign on July 26 at Manchester United's Old Trafford ground against Uruguay.

Then three days later on July 29 they will take the field at Wembley Stadium to take on Great Britain, before their final group game takes place on August 1 in Coventry, at the Ricoh Stadium, against Senegal.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic team coach, had told The National prior to the draw that he had hoped to avoid Great Britain.

"I prefer not to be in the same group as England," he  said. "I prefer not to play the host."

English players will compete as part of a Great Britain team, and are expected to supply the bulk of the squad for the host nation.

Ali's goal for the UAE, in their Olympic football debut, is to finish in the top two of their group, which will be one of four groups in the 16-nation competition.

"We want to advance to the second round," Ali said. "We don't say we can get a medal, but we believe we can qualify for the quarter-finals.

"This is a big event, the Olympics. Maybe it is not at the level of the World Cup, but it is one of the biggest in the world. For 28 years, the UAE did not qualify because it is not easy. To play in it means you are one of the 16 best [Under 23] teams in the world. It's a big achievement."

The draw:

Group A: Great Britain, Senegal, Uruguay, UAE

Group B: Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland

Group C: Brazil, Belarus, New Zealand, Egypt

Group D: Spain, Honduras, Japan, Morocco

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