x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Naser is ready to save UAE

The UAE's first choice goalkeeper Majid Naser returns for tomorrow's World Cup qualifying tie with Saudi Arabia.

Majid Naser returns for the UAE tomorrow.
Majid Naser returns for the UAE tomorrow.

ABU DHABI // The UAE coach Bruno Metsu can draw solace ahead of tomorrow's second World Cup qualifying tie with Saudi Arabia at the return of his first- choice goalkeeper Majid Naser, who is back after serving a one-match ban. Naser rejoined the national team's training and was on duty in the practice game with Al Jazira on Sunday.

Metsu fielded his entire bench and the reserves, and was seen busy with pen and paper in the stands, as he looked for possible replacements to the line-up with North Korea, which they lost 2-1 on Saturday. The line-up he had for the Korean game were put through a physical training session. The UAE will have to come out with full points from this home game if they have to be in serious contention of a place in the finals from Group Two which also include South Korea and Iran.

And Metsu is aware of the consequences. "We must win this game. If not it will be very hard for us. We had one bad game with North Korea and another will certainly spell disaster," he said. "Saudi Arabia are familiar opponents but we must get our act together to win the three points. They nearly beat Iran and such performances build confidence. So we can't afford to repeat the mistakes of our first game.

"The return of Majid will certainly raise the confidence of the backs. But that was not the only problem we had with Korea. The problem was up front where we failed to score from the opportunities. Such things happen however much we have practised. We'll hope to be a bit lucky this time." The mood in the camp hasn't been down as the team prepare to revive their fortunes against a side they beat in the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup last year through an injury-time goal from Ismail Matar.

The former UAE captain and now team coordinator, Fahad Ali, says there were no stones unturned in their preparations. "Sometimes the best prepared are unable to deliver. We missed a couple of great scoring opportunities and then everything fell apart at the end. I am confident they'll come out of this to win full points over Saudi Arabia. "The whole team feel that loss. They feel they let down their fans. So the only way they can repay their fans is by winning the next game. And they all feel confident of achieving that result."

They have no injury worries, according to the team physio Dr Jalel Ghali. "They have recovered well from that game played under extreme humid weather conditions. The entire squad will be ready for selection." Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, arrived on Sunday with a delegation of 48 including the players and officials. They trained at the Zayed Sports City training pitch on the first two days and will have a final workout tonight at the match venue.

apassella@thenational.ae