Edgardo Bauza was convinced to take up the “personal challenge” of guiding the UAE after finding common ground with their Football Association, in contrast to his painful recent experience at Argentina.
Bauza, 59, has inked a two-year to reinvigorate the Whites’ faltering bid to make World Cup 2018 and guide them on home soil at the 2019 Asian Cup. This decision granted an instant return to management after he was dismissed by the Argentine Football Association’s new president Claudio Tapia last month because of a miserable eight-match spell, which sees the beaten World Cup 2014 finalists on the verge of missing next summer’s tournament.
His unveiling on Thursday night at the UAE Football Association’s headquarters in Al Khawaneej also marked the end of a sinuous process to find Mahdi Ali’s replacement, involving advanced talks with a number of other candidates as well as a previous rejected bid from El Paton.
“First of all, this is a personal challenge because we are all on the same track – the president and all the directors,” said Bauza. “We are not thinking about just the three games [remaining qualifiers on Road to Russia] in the coming months, we are thinking about a long-term period and long-term project.
“That is my main goal, to start work as soon as possible. We have an initial two-year project, but we think it is possible to pray for a longer term as everyone is thinking the same – coach and president.”
He added: “I had done some research about the team before coming here but I now have some more knowledge about the team after watching three games from the qualifying campaign. From this, I will start working and try and improve the situation.”
Bauza takes over a nation who are fourth with three games left in the third-and-final round of qualifying for World Cup 2018, one place and four points outside the advancement spots in Group B. A 2-0 defeat to Australia on March 28 saw Ali hand in his resignation, ending a transformational four-and-a-half-year tenure.
The new man has less than five weeks to prepare for his first qualifier, a must-win match at eliminated Thailand. He will debut in a friendly against Qatar in Doha on May 6.
After the fixture in Bangkok, they host Bert van Marwijk’s high-flying Saudi Arabia on August 31 and finish off against Iraq on September 5. They will likely need to take all nine points to stand any chance of success.
Bauza was fully aware of the dire straits his new team finds themselves in as they bid for a second-ever entry into the globe’s grandest football event.
He said: “Mathematically it is possible, but it is very difficult. For sure, we will try to win.
“The situation is difficult because it doesn’t depend on the UAE, it depends on other results.”
Bauza was given his marching orders by the AFA on April 11, less than two weeks after Tapia took the reins. He offered a pragmatic take on the abrupt end of his “beautiful experience” in charge of his nation.
“Having a new president [with Argentina], you know if you come from the old president [Armando Perez] you know you are finished,” said Paton
“It was a beautiful experience, Argentina. But it was finished and there were another five possibilities.
“I chose this one because of the challenge.”
The UAE FA first failed to lure fellow Argentine Alejandro Sabella early last month because of health reasons, while Cosmin Olaroiu preferred to wait for a European post if he is to leave Ahli. An initial $3.5 million annual package was then turned down by Bauza, before scheduling issues torpedoed a move for ex-Honduras and Ecuador tactician Reinaldo Rueda.
Bauza’s only experience of Middle Eastern football is a four-month spell at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in 2009.
He will add to this by watching Al Jazira’s title coronation in the Arabian Gulf League against Al Dhafra on Friday, before taking in next Friday’s President’s Cup final between Al Nasr and Al Wahda after a brief trip home.