x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mahdi Ali silent on UAE Olympics team selection

UAE coach to name side on arrival in UK that could include the experienced Matar, Hammadi and Kasheif in contention for places in 18-strong squad.

Ali Kasheif, centre, in action for Al Jazira during the Pro League, is one of three overage players being considered for the Olympics. Mike Young / The National
Ali Kasheif, centre, in action for Al Jazira during the Pro League, is one of three overage players being considered for the Olympics. Mike Young / The National

LIENZ, AUSTRIA // Mahdi Ali will not disclose the names of the 18-man Olympic football first team for London 2012 until the UAE side reach England, he said on Tuesday.

Twenty-three players have been in training in the Alps with the Olympic team, in Switzerland and now Austria, since mid-June.

Only 18 are eligible to be on the pitch or bench at London 2012, and the deadline for sending that list to London organisers was 1am, Austria time, on Tuesday morning.

The UAE are the only team in Group A, which includes Team Great Britain, Uruguay and Senegal, who have not publicly revealed their team.

In addition to the official 18 players, four more may be taken to London 2012 as reserves, with the expenses for their participation in the Games borne by that team's national Olympic Committee. Those four players may see action in case of injury or emergency in the stead of one of the first 18.

The 23rd player travelling with the UAE Olympic team will have no official role at London 2012 and will not play under any conditions, but it has been decided to take him to England in recognition of the time and effort he will have made during the long training period.

Mahdi Ali said he would confirm the 18 first-team players before they arrive in England, on July 21, five days ahead of their first match, with Uruguay, at Old Trafford.

Limited guesswork is involved in discerning most of the 18 in the first team, including the three overage players training in what is otherwise an Under 23 side. Those would be the forward Ismail Matar, the midfielder Ismail Al Hammadi and the goalkeeper Ali Kasheif.

Other likely inclusions on the list of 18 are the defenders Hamdan Al Kamali, Mohammed Ahmed, Abdulaziz Sanquor, Abdulaziz Hussain and Saad Suroor; the midfielders Omar Abdulrahman, Amer Abdulrahman, Khamis Esmail, Rashid Essa, Mohammed Fawzi and Habib Fardan; and the forwards Ahmed Khalil and Ahmed Ali.

By rule, at least one more goalkeeper must be on the list of 18. The contenders there are Khalid Essa and Dawoud Suleiman, and the inclusion of one of them would take the squad to 17.

The 18th player likely would include one of three defenders, Mohammed Jaber, Saoud Saeed and Ali Al Omeri, to give the Emiratis greater depth in the back. Saeed might have an edge because he plays wide; the other two are central defenders.

Barring injuries in the next 10 days, the candidates for the four reserve roles would seem to include the third goalkeeper, two defenders, the midfielder Haboush Saleh and the forward Ali Mabhkout.

Mahdi Ali has used fewer players in the past two friendlies, a 1-0 victory over the Romanian club Vaslui and a 1-1 draw with the Gabon Olympic team, and those playing fewer than 90 minutes, total, in the two matches were the keepers Essa and Suleiman, the defenders Suroor, Saeed, Jaber and Al Omeri; the midfielders Fardan, Fawzi and Saleh; and the forward Mabhkout.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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