x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Semi-finals are on the UAE's agenda for Under 17 World Cup

'Your team will need you,' team manager Badr Ahmad Al Hammadi tells UAE supporters. Omar Al Raisi reports.

UAE Under 17 team.Credit: UAE Football Association
UAE Under 17 team.Credit: UAE Football Association

ABU DHABI // The UAE Under 17 team are aiming for at least a semi-final spot at the World Cup, the team manager Badr Ahmad Al Hammadi said.

The Football Association has high hopes and it is an objective Al Hammadi believes is achievable.

"Yes, we have a target to at least to make it to the semi-finals, if not winning the World Cup," he said. "But for sure, we will have a go and do whatever we can to reach the finals. It will be great for the development of the team, as this group of players are the future.

"We want to win all the matches in the group games and then take it step by step," he said.

The squad's preparations for the tournament started last year and Al Hammadi says improvements are already visible.

"The preparations have been great so far," he said. "You can see that the team has developed so much since we first started the preparations a year and half ago. We have worked hard so far and we are hoping that it all pays off."

After taking part in a four-team tournament earlier in the year in Istanbul, followed by a mini-tournament in Al Ain, the U17 team moved to Austria and Switzerland to play a series of friendlies.

The squad is now in the final stages of their training camp in Malaysia and will stay there until August 31.

With the success of Mahdi Ali, now the national team coach, at the youth level, it makes sense that current U17 coaching staff have taken advice and tips from the man who took UAE to the Olympics for the first time in history and won the Gulf Cup with the same group of players.

Mahdi Ali lead the U19 team to the Asian title in 2008, then took the U23 team to victory in the U23 Gulf Cup in 2010.

"He has been great in helping us with his great experience in a technical point of view and we have been improving a lot thanks to him," Al Hammadi said. Home support could be a key factor for the UAE. Mexico won the last U17 World Cup in 2011 as the host team, and the UAE are expecting that fans will get behind them as they did during the Olympic team's qualification run to London in 2012.

"The fans will be there for sure, they will come to support us and support their team and be behind them," Al Hammadi said. "We have an organised plan, after the draw event, the marketing will be intense, you will see it all over the country, and they will push it. It will be on TV, newspapers, billboards, radio, etc.

"If we have your support, we will go far and hopefully have a go at the World Cup. It will be a great tournament for the fans and our team will need you."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE