Dominique Bathenay fears motivation among his troops will be in short supply as he prepares them for tonight's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Iran.
Headache for Bathenay
TEHRAN // With injuries a plenty, but no victories in seven qualifying games, Dominique Bathenay fears motivation among his troops will be in short supply as he prepares them for tonight's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Iran. The UAE have earned just a point from the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. The Whites were hoping to end a dismal campaign with a flourish. Those dreams, however, have been hammered by a plethora of injuries.
As the team assembled for the final round of matches against South Korea and Iran, without their captain Abdulraheem Jumaa who has been ruled out for six months with injury, they lost Ismail Matar, Faisal Khalil, Haidar Alo Ali and Ali Khasif to injuries. In Saturday's 2-0 loss to South Korea in Dubai, Ismail al Hammadi was carried off the field after just five minutes with an ankle injury. Veteran midfielder Hilal Saeed also received a red card.
"It is not just the number of players we are missing," lamented Bathenay. "It is the quality of the players we are missing. "These players are the backbone of our side; they are not just any players." The injuries have left Bathenay with just 19 players: three goalkeepers and 16 outfield players. Most of them are youngsters, with little experience of playing in an arena filled with 90,000 patriotic, roaring supporters.
The UAE had silenced those fans on their last visit to the Azadi Stadium, but Bathenay's hopes of an encore are not very high. "We don't have the same team," he said. "We played a very good game against Iran last time here and got a point. We had a good game against Iran in November as well, when we got our only point of this round. "But this is a completely different situation. Iran have only a slim chance of going to the World Cup and they will be keen to grab it. With their fans behind them, they will come out with all their might. We have many young players and the intimidating atmosphere at the Azadi could make it even more difficult for them."
Iran have never lost to UAE, winning nine of the 12 games and drawing the other three. In these games, UAE have been able to score only once. Bathenay, in his last game as coach, did not sound very confident, saying: "We will try not to concede a goal because it becomes very difficult to come back after that. For sure, we play for winning every time, but I can play only with the players I have." email@example.com
Iran v UAE, KO 6,30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 1,