Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

World Cup 2022 the only focus for new UAE manager Bert van Marwijk

Dutchman, 66, was presented to the media at Al Nahyan Stadium having agreed to a three-year contract, with the option of another two years

UAEFA vice-chairman Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi and UAE manager Bert Van Marwijk at the press conference. Pawan Singh / The National
UAEFA vice-chairman Abdulla Naser Al Junaibi and UAE manager Bert Van Marwijk at the press conference. Pawan Singh / The National

New UAE manager Bert van Marwijk says he has only one objective with the national team: to lead the country to the 2022 World Cup.

The Dutchman, 66, was presented to the media at Al Nahyan Stadium on Thursday having agreed to a three-year contract, with the option of another two years. However, the deal is dependent on meeting certain targets at the various stages of qualification.

Having guided Saudi Arabia to a first World Cup in 12 years during his two-year spell from August 2015, Van Marwijk knows what it takes for a Gulf side to reach football’s showpiece event. He faced the UAE four times on the road to Russia, as the Saudis finished second in their group to seal a spot at the tournament.

The first round of a laborious qualification format for 2022 begins in September, with the draw made in April. The UAE have only previously appeared at a World Cup, in 1990.

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” Van Marwjik said. “It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.

“I know it’s not easy, but the Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022.”

Van Marwijk, who finished runner-up with the Netherlands in 2010, denied he had been approached about a return to Saudi Arabia. Since leaving his post in September 2017, he managed Australia on a short-term basis at last summer’s World Cup, although the team failed to make it out of their group.

In the interim he has worked as an advisor to former assistant Mark van Bommel at PSV Eindhoven, but said he is now looking forward to beginning his tenure with the UAE.

“One of the reasons is the feeling - I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analysed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential. That’s the second reason, maybe the most important reason.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice: the first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia and we were a little bit unlucky - we played very well. So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk said he enjoyed his time with Saudi Arabia, but that his reason for leaving was a disagreement regarding preparations for the World Cup. At the time, the Saudi federation claimed it was because he did not want to reside permanently in the Kingdom.

Asked if he would live in the UAE, Van Marwijk said: “I was also the coach of Holland and I will do exactly the same as I did there. I will be here when I’m needed to be here.

“When I was a coach in Holland, I saw the players two-three days before the first game. That’s very important, that you have a little bit more time to prepare. I don’t like a lot of friendly games; I like to train. So for me the most important thing is can I prepare the team? Do I get the time to prepare the team?

“I like to know the players much better, so I like to train more. And that has nothing to do with living somewhere. I will be here when they need me here, and I will see a lot of games here. I also have a technical staff: we will see a lot of games if not all.

"It’s important that I see players and get reports on players, so that we can nominate the best ones I think can get us results. It’s the same as I did in Holland. I will be here as much as you like.”

Van Marwijk said his remit will include promoting players from the different age-groups to the senior team. However, he has been impressed with what he has seen in the past.

“First of all I have to learn about everybody,” he said. “I can tell a lot of things here about the football here. I know a few things; I don’t know all. It’s very good to start somewhere where you don’t know everything.

“For me the most important reason is the level the UAE have had, what I saw. That’s the reason we will do all the things we need to go to the world cup. That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.

“I heard there were some young talents so I’m anxious to know how good they are. I know the team has a few very good players. I will not mention all the names, but I want to mention only one: [Omar] Abdulrahman. I know he is injured. But those are players who can make a difference in the game. I like those players.

"In Holland I always say a team needs weapons and the UAE has a few weapons. And that’s very important.

“There were hard games with the Saudis against the UAE. As I said, you can compare the level and we achieved the World Cup. So that’s the goal we have here.”

Updated: March 21, 2019 06:34 PM

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