x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Diego Maradona on shortlist for UAE national team coach

An FA official confirms the Argentine legend, the current coach of Al Wasl, is among the candidates being considered for the position after the UAE beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in a friendly.

Ismail Matar scored the match-winner for UAE in a hard-fought game at the Al Nasr stadium.
Ismail Matar scored the match-winner for UAE in a hard-fought game at the Al Nasr stadium.

DUBAI // Diego Maradona is one of the names being considered to take over the reins of the UAE national team, according to Yousuf Al Serkal, the chairman of the Football Association interim committee.

The Argentine legend is currently the coach of Al Wasl and many commentators of the game here believe he would be the right man to lead the team out of their slump. Maradona himself is not averse to the idea, it is believed.

Al Serkal agreed with those assessments and revealed the FA is in talks with three candidates regarding the national team job.

"Yes, we have thought of Maradona to lead the team," Al Serkal said in an interview with Arabic newspaper Al Ittihad. "He is one of the names you cannot lose sight of, especially since he is already here.

"But we have to consider the financial aspects. Our goal is to announce a new manager before the end of the season, but I hope we can resolve this issue before that so the new manager can watch some of the league matches."

Various names have been linked with the UAE coach's job, including Dick Advocaat, who briefly coached the national team in 2005, Marcelo Lippi, who led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, and Frank Rijkaard, the Dutchman who includes the Spanish Primera Liga and European Champions League among his coaching achievements while at Barcelona.

Al Serkal, however, refused to disclose the names on the FA shortlist.

"We are still in the negotiating stage and as I said, there are financial aspects to be considered," he said.

"We are not after a big name, but we want a man who can build the confidence of our players.

"He needs to be a man our players can trust because I believe that was one of the biggest reasons for the failure of the former coach.

"So we are looking for a coach who can instil confidence in the players, develop team unity and cohesion."

Abdullah Misfir has been managing the national team since Srecko Katanec was shown the door in September after losing the opening two matches of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Last night, he gave 10 uncapped players a chance against Uzbekistan in a friendly game, which the UAE won 1-0. Ismail Matar scored the game's only goal in the 71st minute in what was to a hard-fought win.

Misfir refused to talk about his future in the job, saying: "I have a contract with the FA and it is their decision."

The Emirati, however, was pleased with the youngsters he picked for the Uzbekistan match, and described them as the future of UAE football.

"They are all young players, so they will be able to serve UAE football for a long time," he said. "Most of them were from the 19 to 23 age group.

"So there are many positives to take from this match. I am not talking about the result, but I am talking about the players and the future.

"The first 20 minutes, they were not concentrating but after that they regrouped and started playing well."

Misfir is hoping to keep this young squad together and pick a mixture of the regulars and new players for UAE's final 2014 World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on February 29.

There are a few openings in the team as Ali Abbas, Majed Nasser and Ismail Al Hammadi will be missing because of suspension.

"My plan is to play two practice games before the Lebanon match," Misfir.

"No dates have been fixed as yet, but I believe we could play on February 21 and 24. From the performances in those two matches, I will pick the team for Lebanon."

arizvi@thenational.ae

Victory over Saudi Arabia in friendly a welcome boost for the Olympic team

With an encouraging 2-1 friendly victory over Saudi Arabia behind them, the UAE Olympic team resume training in Bahrain today ahead of their crucial qualifying match next Sunday against Iraq in Doha. Halfway through qualifying, the UAE are bottom of Group 2 on two points following a shock 2-0 defeat to Iraq in Al Ain in November.

They must win the group, currently headed by Uzbekistan on five points, to gain an immediate berth in the Olympics in July-August. A second-place finish would put them in a play-off with a further chance to gain a ticket to London.

The UAE have not scored in three qualifiers to date, so their two goals against the Saudis provided encouragement. Mohammed Al Safri gave the UAE a first-half lead in the game in Dammam, and Ali Mabkhout scored the winner in injury time. The UAE also defeated the Saudi club side, Mudhar, 4-0.