x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bathenay ready to step up

Dominque Bathenay last night emerged as the frontrunner to replace Bruno Metsu as the coach of the UAE national team.

Dominque Bathenay worked under former UAE coach Bruno Metsu before his resignation.
Dominque Bathenay worked under former UAE coach Bruno Metsu before his resignation.

Dominque Bathenay last night emerged as the frontrunner to replace Bruno Metsu as the coach of the UAE national team. The Frenchman, 54, who worked as assistant under Metsu before his resignation on Sunday, was in talks with the UAE Football Association to finalise a contract.

Bathenay was caretaker coach before Metsu's appointment, following Dick Advocaat's move to take control of South Korea in 2005. The former France international was the Olympic team coach prior to that, and is now preparing for a second stint in the top role. He will inherit a side bottom of Group 1 in the final stage of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. Despite defeats against North Korea and Saudi Arabia in Abu Dhabi, Yousuf Abdullah, the secretary general of the FA, said the Emirates can still claim an unlikely spot in South Africa. "We are not the first national team to lose a coach [in the middle of a campaign], and it is not the first time for us," he said.

"It keeps happening in the world of football. That's life. "We hope it will be a good thing for us this time. We hope the new coach will be ready to fight. "There are still 18 points to fight for. I believe if we can win 10 from 18 then we have a chance of qualifying." The FA moved quickly to replace Metsu after his surprise decision to quit on Sunday. Juma Rabea was their first choice but they turned to Bathenay after the coach of the national youth team turned them down.

They also considered the Al Shabab manager Toninho Cerezo, Al Ain's Winfried Schaefer and Al Ahli's boss Ivan Hasek after quickly establishing they wanted a coach who had knowledge of the country. Bathenay's first game as coach will be a friendly against Japan in Osaka on Oct 9. The game will be his only one before the World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Seoul six days later. The Emirates will then host Iran on Nov 19, meaning Bathenay's first two competitive games will be against two of the toughest teams in the group.

If they are to secure a finals place in South Africa, they cannot afford two more defeats. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae