ABU DHABI // While the ballroom at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel was packed to the rafters for Monday night's draw for the Fifa Under 17 World Cup, several time zones away in Malaysia, the UAE team squad were gathered around a screen watching events unfold.
It was past midnight in Malaysia when the draw ended and Rashid Amir's team were able to go to bed, thinking about a dream encounter with three-time champions Brazil, along with the two other Group A teams, Honduras and Slovakia.
Amir says the training staff can now tailor the rest of the team's preparations around their opposition. They open against Honduras on October 17 at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
"Our focus from now on will be the opening match, because it is important to have a good start," he said.
"Brazil, as we all know, are the top team in the group, they have an excellent record and history in this competition. In a way, we are glad to play them in the group stage because this game will be one of the highlights of the championship.
"It doesn't mean we have any easier task against Honduras and Slovakia. Every game in this competition will be hard for every team. In my opinion, every group is equally tough."
On Saturday, the team will return from Malaysia, where they have played several friendly games, to continue with the final leg of their preparations at home.
They are set to play Argentina and Panama in friendlies in the lead-up to the tournament proper.
"They play similar to Brazil and Honduras and these games will be good preparation for us," Amir said.
The UAE registered a 3-1 win over Slovakia in a friendly tournament on August 5 in Istanbul, but Amir was not taking anything from that result.
"The win over Slovakia in a friendly was a good result for us, but that doesn't provide us a true measure of their strength," he said. "I expect them to arrive better prepared andbetter motivated for the competition.
"I also have a lot of faith in my players to go as far as possible in the competition, especially when we are playing in front of our homes fans. We are confident the fans will play a big role in motivating the players."
The UAE face Brazil in their second game on October 20 and Slovakia in the final group match three days later.
The top two teams from the six groups and the four best third-place teams will advance to the round of 16.
Muhsin Musabah, the former UAE goalkeeper who represented the nation in the 1990 World Cup in Germany, hopes the Under 17 squad will relish the once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing at a World Cup.
"I still relive those moments of the 1990 World Cup," said Musabah, who attended the Monday draw.
"I have all those games recorded and even now I enjoy watching them with my children, relatives and friends. To be realistic, I feel the UAE has a great opportunity to go beyond the group stage in this championship. If they do, it will be an achievement. Anything beyond would be a bonus."
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