x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Friendlies give Katanec a chance to fine-tune Asian Cup squad

With a full squad at his disposal for the first time in months, the national coach will use the games against Syria and Australia to experiment.

With a full squad at his disposal for the first time in months, Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, will use this week's friendlies against Syria and Australia to experiment with his squad before the UAE head for the Asian Cup in Qatar on Friday.

They play Syria tonight and Australia on Wednesday, both at the Al Ain's Khalifa bin Zayed stadium.

Katanec took a 25-player squad to Oman for a training camp last week and, on returning, he called up Saeed al Kas, the Al Wasl striker.

However, the Slovenian will have to trim his squad down to 23 before leaving for the continental championship, which runs from January 7 to 27.

"The coach has said he will try out different combinations in the two friendlies, now that he has all those players from the Olympic team and Al Wahda, who were not available for the Gulf Cup, being available," Salem al Naqbi, the team spokesman, said.

"According to the coach, the two friendlies will provide him with a good idea of the squad and an opportunity to get the combinations in place."

The UAE are in Group D of the Asian Cup and play North Korea in their opener on January 11 followed by Iraq, the defending champions, and Iran.

Syria, tonight's opponents, are in Group B along with Japan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, while Australia are pitted against South Korea, Bahrain and India in Group C.

Katanec travelled to the Gulf Cup in Yemen at the end of November with a depleted squad after the Football Association decided to send a full strength Under 23 team to the Asian Games in China and also leave out Wahda players to give them more time to prepare for the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last month.

Katanec still managed to take the team beyond the group stage before they were beaten 1-0 by Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals.