x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Midfielders last piece of Mahdi Ali's puzzle before Olympics

The coach seems to be mulling which two wide midfielders to play, in the July 26 Olympic opener against Uruguay in Manchester.

Mahdi Ali will have one last look at his combinations in the final practice match today.
Mahdi Ali will have one last look at his combinations in the final practice match today.

LIENZ, AUSTRIA // Mahdi Ali gets one final look at his side in action ahead of London 2012 when the UAE Olympic team meet a New Zealand side boasting five 2010 World Cup veterans in a friendly tonight in the Alpine town of Matrei.

The coach and his 23 players have been together since June 12 and the shape of the Emirati squad seems fairly clear, with one or two exceptions, which may be decided by performances tonight.

Mahdi Al seems to be mulling which two wide midfielders to play, in the July 26 Olympic opener against Uruguay in Manchester. The candidates would appear to be the veteran Ismail Al Hammadi, Khalid Essa, Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Ali.

Al Hamadi and Essa were in the first XI for the 2-1 loss to Honduras on Monday, with Ali coming on for Al Hammadi at half time and Abdulrahman left out.

Barring injury, the rest of the side looks set: Ali Kasheif as goalkeeper, a back four of Abdulaziz Sanquor, Hamdan Al Kamali, Mohammed Ahmed and Abdulaziz Hussain; Amer Abdulrahman and Khamis Esmail in central midfield; and Ismail Matar and Ahmed Khalil in attack.

New Zealand were the only side not to taste defeat at South Africa 2010, drawing three matches as they finished third in a group including Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay.

Two of their overage players, Ryan Nelsen, the captain and defender, and the forward Shane Smeltz, started every match in South Africa, as did the defender Tommy Smith.

The forward Chris Wood came on as a substitute in all three World Cup matches while the midfielder Michael McGlinchey was in the 2010 squad but did not play.

The UAE party will make a four-hour bus trip to Munich tomorrow, and spend the night there, before flying to Manchester on Saturday.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE & Paul Oberjuerge @PaulOberjuerge