x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Into the unknown for UAE against Chile

World's No 10 team in Abu Dhabi tonight and Katanec expects his players to benefit from the challenge in build-up to the Gulf Cup.

ABU DHABI // Subait Khater is relishing the challenge Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, has prepared for them against Chile, who are 10th in Fifa's ranking, in tomorrow's friendly at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.

"The coach has prepared a real good test for us and we are relishing the challenge," said the Al Jazira midfielder.

"We are playing against a top team and an opponent we have never played with. So there is a lot of suspense as well as excitement in our camp. "We know they are very strong side despite not being the same squad that was in the World Cup. It really is good for us." Khater is likely to patrol a midfield that may include Khalid Sabeel, Mohammed Abdulrahman and Mahmoud Khamis, with Ismail Matar and Faisal Khalil as the two forwards. Mohammed Qassim should take charge of the defence alongside Fawzi Fayez, Yousef Jaber and Waleed Abbas with Majed Naser in goal.

It is the first of two friendlies as Katanec prepares the team for the Gulf Cup in Yemen from November 22 to December 4. They play Angola on Tuesday at the same venue. The Chile team are an unknown quantity but one player who will be familiar for the home side is Carlos Villenueva, who plays for Dubai's Al Shabab. Katanec said he knew at least one other who plies his trade in Europe, Pedro Morales, who plays for Dynamo Zagreb, the Croatian Club.

"I have told before and I repeat it again, this game is a real challenge for me as well as for the players," said Katanec after last night's training. "It is enough playing teams we know and are familiar with. This is the first time in my two years we are playing against a team we have no clue of. So it is good for me to see how they fare against a strong and unknown opponent. "I am not after results, and at the same time I like to win every game we play, because it is good for the players and good for all of us. I am not scared to lose either, because if we don't lose, we don't learn. In my opinion we must play against strong opponents, that's why we have chosen a team ranked 10th by Fifa."

Katanec has been forced to leave out several of his youth players for the friendly because they are preparing separately for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, from November 7 to 25. Some of them who may have been in the line-up are Hamdan al Kamali, the defender, along with the Baniyas trio of Amer Abdulrahman, Theyab Awana and Mohammed Fawzi. Ahmed Khalil, the country's best forward prospect, and Omar Abdulrahman, the Al Ain midfielder, are on national duty in their title defence of the Under 19 Asian Cup in Zibo, China.

"We have to play with the best team available and I am satisfied with the players I have in the squad," added Katanec. "Now I know for sure the players I am left with for the Gulf Cup. After the two friendlies with Chile and Angola, I will have to add a few more players to the squad to replace those from Al Wahda, whose players will also be not available because they play in the Club World Cup. "Basically I have to select my players from those left out from the Olympic squad and Wahda. In a way, it is good that the football administration in the country have decided where their priorities are. Now we don't have to talk about it anymore. So we just move on with what we have for the Gulf Cup."

apassela@thenational.ae

The squad

Majed Naser (Al Wasl) Mahmoud Al Mas (Sharjah), Obaid al Taweela, Mohammed Qassim, Ahmed Khamis, Faisal Khalil (Al Ahli), Khalid Sabeel, Sultan Bargash al Minhali, Subait Khater, Yasser Matar (Al Jazira), Fares Juma, Ali al Wehaibi, Mohammed Abdulrahman, Fawzi Fayez (Al Ain), Yousef Jaber (Baniyas), Waleed Abbas (Al Shabab), Ali Rabie (Emirate), Ismail Matar, Fahed Masoud, Mahmoud Khamis (Al Wahda), Amer Mubarak (Al Nasr)

Schedule

When: Tomorrow (Saturday)
Where: Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi
Who: UAE v Chile
Time: 8.30pm kick-off