x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE look to fine-tune Gulf Cup preparations with Estonia friendly

Mahdi Ali will aim to continue his successful build-up for next January's Gulf Cup with a stiff test against Estonia in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed Khalil, left, missed three games for the UAE. Sammy Dallal / The National
Ahmed Khalil, left, missed three games for the UAE. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Mahdi Ali's transition from coaching the most successful UAE age group team to taking charge of the senior national team has worked out well, so far.

His first game in charge against the Asian heavyweights Japan in a friendly ended in a 1-0 away defeat. He then led them to a resounding 3-0 triumph over Kuwait followed by a 2-2 draw against Uzbekistan and 6-2 victory over Bahrain.

Tonight, his team will face a European test when they host Estonia in an friendly international at Al Jazira's Mohammed bin Zayed stadium.

It is the last confirmed friendly as part of the UAE's preparation for the Gulf Cup in Bahrain from January 5 to 18.

"The coach is treating this game as one of the most important because it will be the last until they regroup on December 18 for a camp in Qatar before heading directly to Bahrain," Salem Al Naqbi, the Football Association spokesman, said.

"The UAE will play two friendly matches in Qatar and the opponents are yet to be confirmed. Lebanon were one of the teams but they have apologised as they will be busy with the 2014 World Cup qualifiers."

Ahmed Khalil, the Olympic team and Al Ahli striker, returns from injury after missing the last three games.

He has not been in the best of form but is expected to get a start ahead of Saeed Al Kathiri, the Al Wahda forward, and Ali Al Makhbout, the Al Jazira frontman who scored four goals in the 6-2 demolition of Bahrain.

Amer Abdulrahman, the Baniyas midfielder, has been left out because of injury and a replacement has not been called up to the 22-player squad named last week.

Estonia arrived in Abu Dhabi after a 2-1 win over Oman last Thursday.

apassela@thenational.ae