UAE coach Edgardo Bauza’s fact-finding European tour for potential call-ups ahead of World Cup 2018’s qualifying finale has made its first stops at Arabian Gulf League-champions Al Jazira and beaten President’s Cup-finalists Al Nasr.
Bauza, 59, left the Emirates on Tuesday for a whirlwind mission as he seeks to deepen knowledge of a group of players he has only competitively led in June 13’s damaging 1-1 draw in Thailand.
The ex-Argentina tactician – who signed a one-and-a-half-year deal in May – landed in the Netherlands, where he immediately saw prolific marksman Ahmed Khalil score twice in the Pride of Abu Dhabi’s 3-2 friendly win against third-tier De Treffers.
A flight to Hungary followed for Wednesday’s 2-1 loss for the Blue Wave against the reserves of Slovakia’s Fortuna Liga holders MSK Zilina. The trip concludes on Friday when he returns to his country of entry for Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club’s meeting with Eerste Divisie’s FC Eindhoven.
The UAE finish their Group B-commitments in the third round at home to Saudi Arabia (August 28) and against Iraq (September 5) in Iran or Jordan. They must win both clashes and hope for an improbable swing in goal difference to advance.
The Whites currently sit fourth, six points behind a potential inter-confederation play-off slot.
With hopes of securing the nation’s second-ever finals berth incredibly slim, attention switches to December’s Gulf Cup and January 2019’s Asian Cup on home soil.
Bauza has vowed to promote several players from the youth ranks. A recall for Jazira forward Ahmed Al Attas is likely to head this drive.
Bauza’s selection will gather on August 18. Al Ain’s opening 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-final against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal on August 21 means those players will meet up in their home city at a later date.