x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pro League managers do their part to help ahead of Uzbekistan test

Hickersberger and Vercauteren full of praise for Olympic hopefuls. Audio interview

Omar Abdulrahman, left, scored the only goal.
Omar Abdulrahman, left, scored the only goal.

Pro League coaches have vowed to give as much support as they can to the Olympic team, starting by not picking the young stars for Etisalat Cup matches this weekend.

The Under 23 side play Uzbekistan in the deciding qualifying match on March 14 and domestic club officials are determined they will be fresh for the task.

Franky Vercauteren, the Al Jazira coach, said he would rest all those who played in the victory over Australia on Wednesday.

And Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, said none of his three players who featured in the 1-0 win would be forced to play in the city derby tomorrow. "It is up to them to make themselves available but I would want them to get ready for their next game with the Olympic team," he said.

The Olympic team need only to draw in Tashkent to seal their passage to the London Games.

But Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Khalid, the chairman of Al Ain Club, said: "Winning two games in succession against Iraq and Australia has moved us to the top spot but the important game is against Uzbekistan.

"While rejoicing the team's win, we must not get carried away by this result. I would like to think the players and the technical staff would take all the positives from their win over Australia to the final game in Tashkent."

Vercauteren singled out the Jazira goalkeeper Khalid Eisa and Khamis Ismail as "outstanding throughout the game" against Australia and said of the team: "They played with a lot of heart for a well-deserved win.

"Khalid played a key role and was really outstanding. He made some excellent saves and with this performance I can say he is pushing at the No 1 spot in the national team."


Sheikh Abdulla had special praise for Omar Abdulrahman, the Al Ain midfielder who scored the winner in only his second 90-minute game of the season after returning from a knee surgery.

"Omar has always been one of the most creative young players and his return was a big boost to the team," Sheikh Abdullah said.

"Football is a team game but players like him make a lot of difference to a team. We are very happy to have him back on national duty and for the club as well. He has already made his mark on his return and we would hope he plays a bigger role in the next game."

Sheikh Abdulla also had a special mention for the 28,724 fans that turned out for the game.

"Let this be the start for the fans to be behind the national team," he said. "This is something that had been missing and I wish they continue to be behind the national team whenever they play. It certainly made a massive difference and raised the morale of the players."