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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

UAE squad to assemble in Al Ain for must-win 2018 World Cup qualifier

Plans for a Europe-based training camp have been shelved, with manager Edgardo Bauza set to travel to meet national team players.

Edgardo Bauza, centre, is preparing the UAE football team with World Cup qualifying chances minimal. Courtesy UAE FA
Edgardo Bauza, centre, is preparing the UAE football team with World Cup qualifying chances minimal. Courtesy UAE FA

The UAE national team will gather on August 18 to begin preparations for next month’s must-win World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

The UAE, who hold only a slim chance of making it through to Russia next year, were expected to get together at a training camp in Europe, but the decision was taken on Monday for the squad to meet in Al Ain instead.

With the Arabian Gulf League's (AGL) clubs currently training at various locations throughout Europe ahead of the 2017/18 domestic season, UAE manager Edgardo Bauza will visit those teams with national team players.

The Argentine’s final squad should be confirmed within the next 10 days to two weeks. At present, AGL champions Al Jazira are based in the Netherlands, as are Al Ahli, while Al Ain are based in Austria.

Given Al Ain contest the first leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-final against Saudi’s Al Hilal on August 21, the Garden City’s national team players will join up with the rest of the squad directly afterwards. Both that match and the qualifier with Saudi Arabia take place at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. The UAE then travel to Tehran for their final Group B assignment against Iraq, on September 5.

Even with six points left to play for, the national team’s hopes of making the World Cup are almost over. They drew 1-1 with Thailand in Bangkok last month – Bauza’s first competitive match in charge – to sit fourth in the group, six points off even a play-off spot.

As it stands, the UAE must win both fixtures, while also hoping for other results to go in their favour and for a huge swing in goal difference. The country has only once previously qualified for a World Cup, in 1990.