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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Edgardo Bauza: 'Give me UAE job earlier and we would have had great chance to reach World Cup'

Argentine now focused on preparations for 2019 Asian Cup and promises to give players who perform well in AGL the chance to shine.

Edgardo Bauza was manager of the UAE national team for just four months. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Edgardo Bauza was manager of the UAE national team for just four months. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Edgardo Bauza believes he would have had a better chance of leading the UAE to the World Cup if he had been appointed earlier, as attention now switches to future success.

The Argentine's late attempt to guide the national team to Russia next summer ended in disappointment on Tuesday, when a 1-0 defeat to Iraq in their final Group B match condemned the UAE to a fourth-placed finish, six points off qualification.

Bauza was installed on May 11, six weeks after predecessor Mahdi Ali had ended an almost four-year tenure with the senior side following twin defeats in the double-header against Japan and Australia.

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Bauza was given three qualifying matches to try to rescue the UAE’s faltering bid, but ultimately it proved too difficult a task.

With another attempt at reaching a second World Cup proving unsuccessful, the UAE will look to regroup in time for December’s Gulf Cup of Nations - if the tournament, scheduled to be played in Qatar, still goes ahead - with the prime goal being delivering the Asian Cup on home soil in early 2019.

Bauza's contract runs until the conclusion of the January 5-February 1 tournament.

“I will first seek to build a strong team and prepare for the challenges ahead, starting from the Gulf Cup, although its staging has not yet been confirmed,” Bauza said. “And then I will prepare and prepare better for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.”

Bauza’s late appointment meant he did not have the opportunity to attend many matches towards the end of the 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League.

He was instated days before the final round, and one week before the President’s Cup final. Understandably, it affected his ability the make sweeping changes to the UAE squad. As such, he was criticised for not injecting fresh blood.

“I would like to go back a little bit," Bauza said. "If I had taken the UAE job early, I would have had a great chance of qualifying for the World Cup. But I took over in a tight period in the domestic league.

“In the next phase I will rely on the players that shine and stand out in the league. The doors are open to all, there are no specific names locked for the team. The national team is for everyone and anyone who stands out.”

Meanwhile, UAE striker Ahmed Khalil expressed his disappointment at not making the World Cup.

The Al Jazira forward, currently joint-top in goals scored in qualification with 16, cited the large number of absentees for the team’s defeat to Iraq.

The UAE were without many first-team players in Jordan, with Asian player of the year Omar Abdulrahman and experienced centre-back Ismail Ahmed injured. Also, Ali Mabkhout, Khamis Esmail and Mahmoud Khamis were suspended.

“We did not meet the demands of us on the pitch,” Khalil said. “We suffered from not having many players through injury or suspension, but nevertheless we sought to give our best on the pitch, yet the game did not pan out as expected."

Looking to the future, Khalil added: “We need to focus on the next phase, after losing the dream of being at the World Cup in Russia. We have to focus on what happens next. What has gone is now in the past.

“We must learn from our mistakes and apply those lessons in the future to achieve everything that we aspire to.”