x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Last chance for Katanec to experiment UAE's combination

Coach gets to fine tune in Qatar friendly with a big and balanced squad ahead of World Cup qualifying against Kuwait.

The youthful Mohamed Al Shehhi, left, and teammate Ali Al Wehaibi were part of the Asian zone qualifying second round match against India in New Delhi.
The youthful Mohamed Al Shehhi, left, and teammate Ali Al Wehaibi were part of the Asian zone qualifying second round match against India in New Delhi.

Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, has a final chance to fine tune his team tonight before they face Kuwait in their 2014 World Cup qualifier.

The UAE take on Qatar in a friendly in Al Ain tonight ahead of their crunch qualifier at the same Tahnoun bin Mohammed stadium on September 2.

"We chose to play Qatar because they resemble our first two opponents, Kuwait and Lebanon, in the World Cup qualifier," said Ismail Rashid, the UAE team manager.

"Obviously we have prepared well, and the coach will try out his best combination in this game. He also has a bigger squad and a fine blend of youth and experience to select from."

The 25-man squad has been bolstered by the addition of players from the Olympic team, who were beaten by Oman in the Under 23 Gulf Cup final last weekend.

Eight members of that team are in the squad, including Mohammed Fawzi, Mohammed Ali Gharib and Mohammed Abdulrahman, and they have all been training with the senior side since the regional tournament in Qatar.

"Most of these players have been together and played together for a while and they understand each other pretty well," Rashid said. "It is about getting the best available combination for the upcoming matches."

Qatar will be under Sebastiao Lazaroni, the new coach.

The Brazilian, who was in charge of Qatar Sports Club, was appointed last week after the Qatar Football Association parted company with Milovan Rajevac, their Serbian coach.

Qatar had failed to impress under Rajevac's short stint in charge as the team were beaten by India in a friendly, and 2-1 by Vietnam in the away leg of their 2014 World Cup qualifier, although they still got through to the next round, 4-2 on aggregate.

The UAE host Kuwait on September 6 and then travel to Lebanon immediately after.

South Korea are the other team in the group and they will be the opposition on October 11.

The UAE moved to the third round of the qualifying phase after a first-round bye and a 5-3 aggregate win over India. Qatar also drew a first-round bye before beating Vietnam.

Qatar are in Group E along with Indonesia, Iran and Bahrain, who they face in an away match in the opening day of the qualifiers before a home clash with Iran.

The third stage comprises five groups of four teams, from which two advance to two groups of five that will play a further group stage. The top two teams from both groups will qualify for the 2014 finals. The two third-placed teams will engage in a play-off, and the winner a chance to qualify via a further inter-confederation qualifying tie.

apassela@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE