x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Warming up for the India qualifier

UAE's friendly will help the team adapt to heat after European trip.

The UAE national team play Lebanon in Al Ain on Sunday night, their last friendly before the less carefree business of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup begins against India in the same city next Saturday.

Srecko Katanec, the Slovenian who coaches the national side, expects tonight's match to help his team adapt anew to torrid summer temperatures here after they spent nearly three weeks training in mild, even chilly Austria.

"These players know how to play in these temperatures," Katanec said. "It's not strange for them. They know how to comport themselves in these conditions. We have enough time to adapt again."

The games against Lebanon and India will both be played at Khalifa Stadium in Al Ain; the hope is that temperatures will be milder in the Garden City than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

The return match with India is July 28 in Delhi. The aggregate winners after the home-and-away tie advances to Asian Football Confederation group play; the losers are finished until the next World Cup quadrennium.

"These are like knockout games, so they are even more difficult," Katanec said of the matches with India.

"You can never know what kind of emotions these games will bring, but I think we have enough experience to get past this pressure."

The coach is likely to settle on his line-up for India after tonight's match. The UAE will play without their long-time captain Subait Khater as well as their veteran forward Ismail Matar, who are both recovering from surgery.

Katanec said that the young midfielders Omar Abdulrahman, Theyab Awana and Mahmoud Khamis are also carrying injuries.

"We will use this last friendly match to find some solutions," he said.

Katanec has been encouraged by his side's attack; they scored six goals in three friendlies with club sides while in Austria. In the Asian Cup last January, the UAE failed to score in three matches in group play.

"We played quite well," he said. "I'm confident. Why not?"

Ismael Hammadi, the Al Ahli midfielder, scored twice while in Austria, and Amer Abdulrahman, Mohammed Al Shehhi, Abdullah Mousa and Ahmed Khalil each scored once, the later against Dynamo Bucharest, the most formidable of the three opponents and held by the UAE in a 1-1 draw.

Katenec is likely to start several members of the Olympic team, including the defender Hamdan Al Kamali, the midfielder Omar Abdulrahman and the forward Khalil.

Ali Kasheif, the Al Jazira goalkeeper, will start in between the posts ahead of Majid Naser, who is injured.

Katanec is considering several formations for Lebanon as well as India. "We could play with one forward, two forwards, three forwards," he said. "You will see."

Lebanon are also preparing for World Cup competition; they play home-and-away with Bangladesh on Saturday and July 28.

India's final friendly is also tonight, away to Qatar. Katanec has sent one of his assistants to Doha to cast an eye over the Indians; they recently played out a 1-1 draw with Maldives.