x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE coach hoping for 'a good result' in Olympic qualifier vs Australia

Mahdi Ali says he has adequate cover in the squad to cope with injuries to key players.

Mahdi Ali will be missing central defender Hamdan Al Kamali, but was confident of his team's preparations ahead of the game in Adelaide.
Mahdi Ali will be missing central defender Hamdan Al Kamali, but was confident of his team's preparations ahead of the game in Adelaide.

Mahdi Ali was previously the mastermind behind projects such as the Dubai parking system and the Nol card for the Dubai Metro.

He has combined those planning skills with his football experience to become the most successful Emirati coach, leading the UAE to their first Under 19 Asian Cup title in 2008, to the quarter finals in the U20 World Cup in 2009, the U23 Gulf Cup crown in 2010 and a silver medal at the Asian Games last December.

Ali, who left his job as the Director of Dubai Municipality to become a full-time coach, is now intent on leading the UAE to a maiden Olympic appearance.

And having disposed of Sri Lanka 10-1 on aggregate and North Korea 2-1 in the two preliminary rounds in the 2012 qualifying, the UAE face Australia in Adelaide in tonight's Group B third round.

"If our ambitions are to play in the London Games next year, we must be able to play and win against any opposition," said Ali.

"We are aware of Australia's strength but we have prepared well, and are ready for them. I have a lot of faith in the squad. They are very experienced, and I expect them to play a good game and return with a good result."

Faisal Khalil and Ali Mabkhout are expected to spearhead the attack, with Amer Abdulrahman pulling the strings in the midfield along with Theyab Awana, Rashid Eisa and Mohammed Fawzi, the captain.

But they will be missing a vital link in the defence as Hamdan Al Kamali, the central defender, is recovering from a cheekbone fracture he suffered in the senior team's 3-2 defeat to Kuwait in the 2014 World Cup qualifier on September 2.

The midfielders Ahmed Ali and Haboush Saleh are also sidelined with injuries while Omar Abdulrahman is recovering from knee surgery.

"When you have an injury to one of the key players, it is always difficult," Ali said. "But injuries are not unusual. We must have adequate cover and I have it in this squad because we have played in some competitions without some of the key players who were with the senior national team."

Saad Suroor takes the place of Al Kamali at the back with Ahmed Mahmoud in the goal.

Australia head into the game on the back of a 7-0 aggregate win over Yemen. Jason Hoffman accounted for five of those goals, and the Melbourne Heart striker is set to play a central role as they seek to qualify for a seventh consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games.

Iraq play Uzbekistan away in the other Group B match.

Three groups of four teams play for the 3.5 slots allocated for Asia for the 2012 Olympic Games. The three group winners will automatically advance, while the second-placed finishers in each group will play off at a centralised venue in March next year for the right to meet an African representative for a ticket to London.

 

apassela@thenational.ae