x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Katanec starts reign against Palestine

Srecko Katanec's first match in charge of the UAE national football team will be a home game against Palestine on October 10.

ABU DHABI // Srecko Katanec's first match in charge of the UAE national football team will be a home game against Palestine on October 10, the UAE Football Association (UAE FA) confirmed yesterday. The FA president, Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, outlined plans for a series of friendly matches for the national team between October and December, including a four-team tournament from November 15-18, where the UAE will face Iraq.

Katanec, who replaced Frenchman Dominique Bathenay at the helm after a dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, will also lead the UAE in fixtures with Jordan, on October 14, and a highly- anticipated clash with English Premier League club Manchester City will take place in Abu Dhabi on November 12. Al Rumaithi confirmed the matches are set to take place in the UAE, with Dubai and Al Ain in line to play host to visiting teams for the tournament.

Abu Dhabi's stadia - Al Jazira's home ground, the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium and the Zayed Sports Stadium - are out of the running as they undergo reconstruction ahead of the Fifa Club World Cup in December. In the only official game played between the two teams, the UAE were beaten by Palestine at the Arab Cup held in Jordan in 1999. Ten years on, al Rumaithi still recalls the 1-0 defeat. "I remember that match well. It was a defeat that sticks in my mind. We didn't play well," said al Rumaithi.

The UAE sit 53 places above Palestine in the Fifa world rankings, with UAE in 124th and Palestine languishing in 177th place. Now under new management, al Rumaithi is optimistic the UAE can put their World Cup disappointment behind them and perform well in their upcoming fixtures. "I'm confident the team will do well and [Katanec] will do his best. Of course, it depends on the players as well as the coach," said al Rumaithi. "I think Katanec will work well with the team. He is young. He has the talent to help make a good team here. "With the help of the fans and the clubs we can have a good team in a few months time," al Rumaithi added. "I'm optimistic for the future of the UAE team." The UAE and Palestine teams will be hungry for a win after a run of bad performances from both camps. The UAE finished bottom of their group in the final round of the World Cup qualifying earlier this summer, while Palestine lost to Iraq in both of their previous two matches. They were dispatched by margins of 4-0 and 3-0 respectively in back-to-back fixtures last month. Following friendlies with Jordan and Manchester City, the UAE will face Iraq in a four-team tournament in November. The two other teams are yet to be confirmed, with Qatar believed to be in the running. The series of home fixtures will be followed by an away game against Kuwait on December 16, ahead of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification clash with Malaysia on January 6 2010. zgriffiths@thenational.ae