x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Double trouble for the UAE

The UAE were dealt a severe blow yesterday on the eve of their most important match for four years.

The UAE coach Dominique Bathenay, in red, with his players, at Al Maktoom Stadium.
The UAE coach Dominique Bathenay, in red, with his players, at Al Maktoom Stadium.

DUBAI // The UAE were dealt a severe blow yesterday on the eve of their most important match for four years. Just hours after two key players, Ali Abbas and Subait Khater, were dropped for tonight's World Cup qualifier against Iran for breaking the team curfew, Saeed Abdul Gaffar Hussain, the vice president of the UAE Football Association, admitted to losing all confidence in the team.

Abbas and Khater were thrown out of the squad after failing to meet the 11pm curfew on Sunday night. Obaid al Shamsi, the vice president of the FA's technical committee, said: "We waited for them. Abbas returned in the early hours of the morning, while Khater showed up at nine in the morning. "We are not going to tolerate such indiscipline, especially since our FA president Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi has made it clear that the team do not need such players, even if they are match-winners."

The UAE coach Dominique Bathenay said: "It is really disappointing because both players would have been in the starting line-up against Iran." Supporters give the UAE little chance of qualifying for South Africa 2010 - a view now shared by the FA's vice president Hussain, who said sadly: "Honestly, after watching them in the last three games, I have lost confidence in the team." He added: "They need to show some pride and work hard to win the game, especially since they are in such a bad position."

The UAE started their Group 2 campaign in the final round of Asian qualifying with a 2-1 home defeat against North Korea. The disappointment continued four days later at home against Saudi Arabia when, after taking an early lead, they conceded two goals within four minutes of the second half to lose 2-1. Bruno Metsu resigned as coach after that defeat, complaining that the players were just not good enough. Bathenay replaced him, but saw his new team thrashed 4-1 in Seoul against South Korea.

Khamis and Yousef Jaber have been brought into the squad as replacements for the disgraced pair who will face further punishment including a possible suspension from playing for their clubs in the Pro League. Without a point from three games and at the bottom of the table, Bathenay's men line-up against Iran tonight with victory being the only result that could keep them in with a slight chance of making the World Cup in South Africa. "It is difficult, but it is not impossible," said Hussain. "There is nothing impossible in the world of football. Yes, I admit it is going to be a tough game; Iran are eager to get the three points and so are we. "We need to be 100 times hungrier than Iran to win the match. This is what we are hoping for. It will make us feel that at least we do have a good team. "We are also playing at home. Somebody is coming to your house to fight against you. Will you let him beat you inside your own house? "They are about to drown in a sea, but they still have a chance to survive. Are they going to rescue themselves, or will they just drown without even trying? Let's see how it goes." The UAE captain Abdulraheem Jumaa is aware of the mood of pessimism, but has promised a battle to the end. "I know that our fans are disappointed with the team," he said. "But I hope they will come to the stadium and help us in beating Iran. If we win, it will renew our hopes of qualifying and give us a major boost for the matches ahead. "This game is like a final for us. We don't have any alternative but to win and we hope luck will be with us. Our hopes are still alive and we have to do our best to get the three points." arizvi@thenational.ae