x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Al Wahda have been the great underachievers

The new Al Wahda captain Haider Ali says his team must not repeat the underachievement that has blighted their last four seasons.

The new Al Wahda captain Haider Ali says his team must not repeat the underachievement that has blighted their last four seasons. The Abu Dhabi club finished fourth in 2008/09 - 21 points behind the winners Al Ahli - having finished eight the season before. They lost to Al Ain in the Etisalat Cup final and were beaten by Al Shabab in the President's Cup semi-final. "I am as surprised as many others that we haven't been able to win a trophy in the last four seasons despite having six current internationals and three foreign players," he said. "The foreign players we had in the past didn't live up to their potential, but this time we have a proven goal-scorer."

Wahda signed last season's leading scorer Fernando Baiano from city rivals Al Jazira and have drafted in the experienced goalkeeper Mutaz Abdulla from Al Ain. The line-up looks impressive on paper with the Brazilian midfielder Pinga, a former Borussia Dortmund player, staying on for another year and the UAE internationals Haider, Ismail Matar, Abdulraheem Jumaa, Mohammed al Shehhi, Mahmoud Khamis and Hamdan al Kamali, who is captaining the youth team at the Fifa Under 20 World Cup in Egypt.

Another Brazilian, Magrao, a 30-year-old striker, was a last-minute signing. He joined on a two-year deal for ?2 million (Dh 10.85m) from Internacional after Wahda shelved the signing of the Ghanaian forward Agyeman Opoku after realising he will spend a large part of the season on international duty at the Under 20 World Cup and the African Cup of Nations in January. Josef Hickersberger, who took charge of the club in the middle of last season, is optimistic.

"I spent most of the last season building the right combination and this season we mean business," said the former Austria manager. "Baiano was a goal-scoring machine last season and I hope he can continue to score for us. We lacked someone of the calibre of Baiano last season. Mutaz fills another key position. It strengthens to two key areas. "We have no dearth in the local talent with six current internationals. With such a good talent pool, there is no reason we will not be in the trophy hunt this season."

apassela@thenational.ae