x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Syria are first up for women's football champions UAE

Hassan Ajenoul's side begin the defence of their title won last year against Jordan with a match against Syria in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

ABU DHABI // The UAE, the defending champions, were grouped with Iran, Syria and Lebanon in the fourth West Asian Football Federation's Women's Championship, which kicks off at the Sultan bin Zayed stadium today.

Jordan, the two-time champions and the beaten finalists last year, face Palestine in the opening match of the eight-team tournament, followed by Iraq versus Bahrain in Group B.

Group A's matches begin when the UAE meet Syria tomorrow before Iran's clash against Lebanon.

Hassan Ajenoul, the Moroccan-born Portuguese coach of the UAE, is confident of going beyond the group stage.

"I had only one month and we played just two friendlies against boys teams in the lead up to this competition," said Ajenoul, a former Moroccan international and the country's national team coach in 1995.

"But they have been training together as a team and that holds the key for this team.

"It is true the UAE are the defending champions, but a lot may have changed from that time until now. The other teams would have certainly prepared well but we will focus on our first game against Syria." The UAE beat Jordan 1-0 in last year's final in March.

arizvi@thenational.ae