Fujairah boss Dr Abdullah Mesfer has declared his Wolves will go all out to hunt down Hatta and nail down a berth in the Arabian Gulf League during Sunday’s deciding promotion play-offs.
The top flight’s bottom two – Emirates Club and Hatta – are battling the First Division League’s third and fourth-placed finishers – Fujairah and Al Hamriyah – to join the expanded, 14-team 2018/19 top flight.
A brace from Argentine striker Danilo Carando secured a 2-1 victory at Fujairah Stadium for Diego Maradona’s former charges on Wednesday. Attack will now be the best form of defence when they look to nail down a return to the big leagues for the first time since 2015/16, according to the joint FIFA Player of the Century’s successor.
“We have come a long way and we have to continue this approach because the task is not yet over,” Dr Mesfer said. “There is still a long way to go and complete the journey.
“We are determined to repeat our victory, despite the difficulty of our task.”
The tie at Al Hamriyah Sports Club Stadium is also delicately poised after another Argentine hit man, Sebastian Saez, struck the only goal in Emirates’ 1-0 triumph.
UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni has revealed his hard-line plan for success at January 2019’s Asian Cup does not include tolerating any ill-disciplined players – no matter their reputation.
Zaccheroni, 65, mapped out the host’s detailed route to next year’s tournament on Saturday at the UAE Football Association’s headquarters in Al Khawaneej, Dubai. The Italian’s first six months in charge have been dominated by the apparent exclusion of 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout.
The celebrated pair broke curfew the night before January 6’s miserable Gulf Cup defeat to Oman, subsequently missing March’s King’s Cup in Thailand. Although Zaccheroni claimed his “door is open to each and every player”, it is apparent any further infractions will be met with severe sanction in the run-up to January 5’s Group A-opener against Bahrain.
“I praise the discipline of the players and their commitment to attend training until this date,” said the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan boss. “There is no doubt that all my players will be fully ready and have the incentive to compete in the Asian Cup with all their force.
“We will, undoubtedly, be very careful to instil discipline. Any player will be excluded that does not comply.”
He added: “The squad is open to any player that emerges. My door is open to each and every player.”
The Whites next congregate from August 1-18 in Salzburg, Austria. A pair of stints then follow in Spain – October 6-16 in Girona and November 6-20 in Barcelona.
#زاكيروني:— قناة دبي الرياضية (@dubaisportstv) May 12, 2018
-المعسكر الإعدادي للمنتخب سيبدأ في الأول من اغسطس
-المعسكر الأول سيكون في أوروبا وهو الأهم بالنسبة لي
-سيتم إقامة 4 مباريات ودية في المعسكر الأول إضافة إلى مباراة رسمية#الإمارات #كأس_آسيا 2019 pic.twitter.com/i2jKIo04jS
Preparations are wound up in Dubai/Abu Dhabi from November 6-20 and Abu Dhabi from December 15-31.
Friendly matches will be contested at each stage. They will not play any fellow Asian nations.
Zaccheroni has been tasked to improve on 2015’s third spot under Mahdi Ali and make the final on home soil, in a repeat of 1996’s event. To do this, the 1998/99 Serie A winner will need to cure a chronic lack of goals – his charges have scored just five times in 10 matches.
“I have read a lot recently about my use of a 3-4-3 formation,” Zaccheroni said. “This method won many titles at AC Milan, but I did not rely on any specific formation throughout my career.”
The Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup champions dominated proceedings, with playmaker and captain Omar Abdulrahman winning the Best Emirati Player award, Khalid Essa winning the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper, Zoran Mamic named Best Coach, while Egypt sensation Hussein El Shahat was named the Fans’ Player of the Year.
In addition, Swedish striker Marcus Berg won the Golden Shoe having plundered 25 goals in his debut season in UAE football.
The other two awards went to AGL runners-up Al Wahda, with Argentine striker Sebastian Tagliabue winning the Best Foreign Player and goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi collecting the award for Best Young Player.
Al Ain’s players also littered the Team of the Season, with Essa, El Shahat, Berg and Abdulrahman also joined by UAE defender Ismail Ahmed and emerging attacking midfielder Rayan Yaslam.
The rest of the team was made up by Al Nasr defensive duo Mahmoud Khamis and Ahmed Al Yassi, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club centre-back Mohammed Marzooq – who despite playing in a middling team that struggled to fifth place, was part of a defence that conceded a league low 18 goals – Al Jazira’s ferocious forward Ali Mabkhout and Wahda wonder Tagliabue.
Abdulrahman was somewhat fortuitous to pick up a fourth Best Emirati Player award after a quiet campaign by his standards, marred by injury. He adds the award to the trophies he won in 2012/13, 2014/15 and 2015/16.
But the Boss’ grip on the awards was as deserved as their double success, with the Garden City side returning to their glorious roots following a few barren years by their standards.
Mamic’s men lifted a first league title in three seasons, while a seventh President’s Cup overall, but first in four years, was lifted.
Al Ain lost just once in 22 games – a joint record for the professional era – and scored 15 more goals than any rival.
Tagliabue was crowned the league’s best import for the second time. The 33-year-old veteran, who this week signed a new two-year extension with the Clarets, led the goalscoring charts until the penultimate round before being pipped to the Golden Boot by Berg.
Eventually finishing with 23 goals, Tagliabue won the award ahead of Berg and Al Wasl’s Fabio De Lima.
The Pro League Committee, the AGL’s governing body, held the awards at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace, with the ceremony attended by members of the PLC executive office, as well as UAE national team coach Alberto Zaccheroni, while Jazira goalkeeping coach and former Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia participated in the new season draw.