AL AIN // Dominique Barthenay, the UAE coach, said Mohammed Omar and Abdulsalam Jumaa will bring more stability to the side after injuries and suspensions kept some key players out his squad for their Gulf Cup defence. "They are the best option I have to fill in the vacant places in the team," said the former France international, who is preparing his team for the two friendlies with the Asian champions Iraq (tomorrow) and Kuwait (Tuesday) before flying to Oman on Jan 2.
"They are both playing well at the moment and have been recalled to the squad on merit. They also have a lot of experience which is going to be very useful in a competition for which we are preparing." Omar, 33, comes in place of the exciting striker Ahmed Khalil, 17, and Jumaa in place of the midfielder Adil Abdulaziz, after both the Al Ahli players were ruled out of the squad as they had not recovered from injuries.
Omar has scored nine goals in 10 games for his club Al Nasr and is only one behind the leading scorer Fernando Baiano in the Pro League. Baiano's teammate Jumaa has played a pivotal role in midfield for the league leaders Al Jazira. Barthenay is also without the services of his experienced midfielders Subait Khater and Ali Abbas, as both are serving one-year bans from the national team for breaking the team's night curfew ahead of their World Cup qualifying clash with Iran last month.
Barthenay insisted he still has a good mixture of youth and experience. He said: "The two friendlies will be useful to try out the new combinations and to improve on the areas we need to improve." Jumaa said his inclusion was indeed a surprise. He said: "But I understand it is not without any reasons. "The coach has a problem in finding suitable replacements and he has looked up to me. I am more than ready to give all I have for the faith he has on me and I really want to help the team."
Barthenay had originally named Khalil and three of his teammates from the AFC Under 19 Championship winning side in the senior squad for the regional competition that starts on Jan 4. The UAE are in Group B and face Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen, whom they play in the opening match in the second day of the competition. Khalil, Asia's Youth Player of the Year, was to spearhead the attack alongside Ismail Matar. Khalil's U19 teammates Hamdan al Kamali, the captain, and defenders Mohammad Fayez and Mahmoud Khamis remain in the Frenchman's 26-man list.
The Jazira captain Salah Obaid was recalled along with Amir Mubarak, while Obaid Khalifa, Yousef Jaber and Salem Khamis, who were in the camp for the 2010 World Cup qualifier against Iran last month, have been left out. firstname.lastname@example.org