x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mahdi Ali: Omar Abdulrahman can spearhead UAE players' push into top leagues

The Gulf Cup-winning UAE coach believes his side's players, including the in-demand Al Ain midfielder, have shown they can compete in Europe after their recent performances.

UAE national team coach Mahdi Ali.
UAE national team coach Mahdi Ali.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE national coach, has backed the country's crop of talented young footballers to succeed in some of the top leagues in Europe and around the world.

The current generation of UAE players, led by Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman, has come under increasing scrutiny from the rest of the world following their performances at the London 2012 Olympics and in winning the Gulf Cup earlier this year.

"When we played in London [Olympics], we showed that we have the quality of players that have the ability and skill to play in Europe," Mahdi Ali said.

"I'm sure this will improve their performances, and Omar is one of the players who have the ability to play there."

He was, however, hopeful that the clamour for a high profile transfer does not result in his star player being rushed on a decision, pointing out that it was not just a footballing matter but also about settling into a completely different environment with a different language and culture. Above all, he is keen to avoid unhelpful speculation.

"We hope that he gets official offers, we don't want to see just rumours, " he said. "We know Al Ain are open to official proposals for him to play in Europe, it will be beneficial for him, the club and for UAE football."

Speaking at his unveiling as brand ambassador for Audi in the Emirates, he also offered his best wishes to UAE Football Association chief Yousef Al Serkal in his bid to become president of Asian Football Confederation, a move he believes would be major boost for UAE football at club and international level.

The UAE are not back in action until September, when several friendlies will be followed by Asian Cup qualifiers against Hong Kong in October. Qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australian remains the immediate target.

"I hope first of all to qualify, and it's our dream to be one of the four top teams in the [competition]," he said. "We are doing very well in the qualifiers, we played in Vietnam and Uzbekistan here and we won both games and we are in a good position now."

Looking further ahead, Mahdi Ali has set his sights on the biggest prize of all.

"Our second big goal is to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, I think we have a very young team, and a very good generation, and we have a very good chance of qualifying if we continue to progress."

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