x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Katanec has problems up front

The UAE national team coach, however, is not in panic mode despite lack of striking options for their Jordan clash tonight.

DUBAI // The UAE coach Srecko Katanec faces a striking crisis in only his second game in charge after the influential forward Ismail Matar was ruled out of tonight's friendly against Jordan with a knee injury. He joins Faisal Khalil and Abdulraheem Jumaa on the sidelines and leaves the Slovenian manager with few attacking options as he seeks to improve on the poor showing against Palestine.

"We have to play with what we have," said Katanec. "There are a few injury problems which are not real concerns as they not serious, but in such situations, it provides the opportunity for others to prove themselves to get into the national team. "I believe in competition and the players must fight for their places. I would like to think I'll have more options after those injured players return along with some of the youth team members after their highly commendable Fifa Under 20 World Cup.

"These are the options I'll have in the future. But for the time being we must have a team to play. I still feel some of them are the core members of the national team we are preparing for our first competition in January." Ahmed Khalil, the Asian Youth Player of the Year and a key member of the U 20 World Cup are sure to feature in Katanec's future line-up, but for the time being, he has to rely on Mohammed Suroor and Saeed al Kas, both in the twilight of their careers.

"We didn't play well in the first game," added Katanec. "It was my first game and the first for the national team in more than four months. "These friendlies serve as trials and these games are important to build a strong squad. The idea is always to win and it's important because that will indicate the strength of the squad." Matar has not fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the friendly with Palestine four days ago.

The Al Wahda forward was substituted at the half hour by al Kas in the UAE's dismal 1-1 draw against a side ranked 50 places below them in the Fifa rankings. Matar's injury is not serious but he is reportedly being rested for his club's derby match against Al Jazira on Monday. Ahmed Khamis, 24, has been called up as replacement along with his Al Ain teammate Salem Abdulla, 23. Katanec is left with few options up front though, and may once again start with Suroor as his main striker and al Kas who scored the equaliser against Palestine.

Khamis and Mohammed al Shehhi - who played the last 20 minutes in the first friendly after returning from injury - may be brought on at some stage of the game. apassela@thenational.ae UAE v Jordan, KO 6.45pm, Abu Dhabi Sports