x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE Under 17 World Cup diary: Monday, October 14

Abdullah Al Shaheen, the UAE assistant coach, will be speaking to The National during the tournament. This is his first diary entry.

The UAE under 17 team begin their World Cup on Thursday against Honduras. Photo courtesy UAE FA
The UAE under 17 team begin their World Cup on Thursday against Honduras. Photo courtesy UAE FA

Abdullah Al Shaheen, the UAE assistant coach, will be speaking to The National during the tournament. This is his first diary entry.

On Wednesday night, we returned from our last training camp in Marbella, Spain, where we had specifically organised matches against teams who not only qualified for the World Cup here, but are also continental champions. We drew 1-1 against Mexico, Argentina and Ivory Coast. And we also beat Panama 4-0.

There were many positives to take from the trip. The players clearly enjoyed and benefited from playing very competitive matches against such strong sides. We discovered what our strengths and weaknesses are and we continue to work on them.

Physically and mentally, the players are now in the best possible shape. Knowing they can compete, and get results, against the best teams in the world has banished any fears or doubts they may have had before meeting Brazil, Honduras or Slovakia.

Unfortunately, we have had one injury setback in the last few days. The midfielder Ali Ghuloum, who is a very important member of the first team, has been ruled out of the first match. But we have always insisted that we prepare all 21 players, and not just the first 11, and the reserve players are ready to do a job when called on.

Of course, it is always disruptive when you lose a first-choice player so near to the start of the tournament, but whoever replaces Ali will be of the same standard, and we are confident he will perform the role as well.

On Saturday night, we played our last training match, against New Zealand at Al Wahda Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and it finished 1-1.

Every player in the squad got a run out. In the first half we played the reserves and in the second the first-team players got a full 45 minutes.

It was important that we got that match under our belt. The training camp in Spain was very successful but we needed to once again acclimatise to the weather conditions here which are very different at this time of the year. It is hotter and more humid here and the timing of the match ensured the players got a taste of what it would be like when we kick of against Honduras on Thursday night.

We are ready now.