x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Katanec gives U20s the nod

UAE manager looks to the future by picking eight boys, who performed so well in Egypt, to play against City.

The Manchester City players train at the Zayed Sports City before their match today.
The Manchester City players train at the Zayed Sports City before their match today.

ABU DHABI // The advertising men have billed tonight's friendly between UAE and Manchester City as "Our Country against Our City", but they would have been better off marketing the national team as Our Future. The majority of the UAE side who take to the Zayed Sports City pitch will come from the ranks of the U20 side who reached the quarter-finals of their World Cup in Egypt last month, rather than the senior team who failed to qualify for next year's senior World Cup finals.

Srecko Katanec, the coach who replaced Dominque Bathenay after the UAE finished bottom of the second stage of qualifying for South Africa, is using the match as an opportunity to blood players. "We plan to field a young team, at least eight of them, as this is an excellent opportunity and a fantastic incentive for them to play against a side like City," he said. "These are the kind of games where we can try out new combinations and provide the opportunities for the younger players."

After this game Katanec's side will play the Czech Republic on November 15 and Iraq or Azerbaijan on November 18. The three games will be Katanec's preparation for January's Asian Cup qualifier with Malaysia. The U20 captain Hamdan al Kamali and Mohammed Fayez, both defenders, along with forwards Theyab Awana and Ahmed Khalil, and the midfielder Sultan al Menhali are certain starters. With Ismail Matar still recovering from a knee injury he sustained during Katanec's first game as coach with Palestine - a 1-1 draw - on October 12, Awana and Khalil will play up front.

Subait Khater returns from a one- year international isolation after the Football Association banned the Al Jazira midfielder for breaking a late-night curfew ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifying match against Iran. City's side will include Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland. Ireland has retired from international football with the Republic of Ireland. He was dropped in September 2007 after falsely claiming his grandmother had died in order to leave the national squad to be with his girlfriend who had suffered a miscarriage. He revealed yesterday that Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic manager, has spoken to him about a return but said he has no regrets about his international exile. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae