Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic has refused to be drawn on reports that he is being considered as a replacement for struggling UAE supremo Alberto Zaccheroni, for whom the Football Assocation rallied behind on Saturday night.
Zaccheroni, 65, has come under increased pressure in the wake of Thursday’s woeful 2-0 friendly defeat against undercooked Trinidad and Tobago. The Italian has overseen a troubled build-up to January 2019’s Asian Cup on home soil – the Whites are winless in five matches and have scored just four times in 12 games overseen by him since his October 2017 arrival.
Legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate has already moved himself into position as a potential successor. But the candidature of last term’s Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double winner was also rumoured to be of interest to the worried UAE Football Association.
When quizzed about this talk on Saturday, a curt response was delivered by Mamic. “No comment,” he said.
This preceded a tweet from the UAE FA’s official account that declared no talks had been held with any other coaches.
It read: “The UAE Football Association denies what is being circulated in the media and social networking sites about communicating with any coach to take over for the the Asian Cup. We appeal to everyone to stand behind the Whites and not to disturb preparations for the championships.”
Mamic lifted five major trophies at Dinamo Zagreb from 2013-16, prior to a brief stint at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
Al Ain poached him in February 2017. He made history in 2017/18 when Al Ain – the UAE’s most-decorated club – were guided to a first-ever double of the nation’s premier competitions.
Zaccheroni’s current Whites squad will meet minnows Laos on Tuesday in Catalonia.
The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo signed a contract until the end of the Asian Cup – a tournament in which he must make the final.
Yahya Al Ghassani’s stellar impact at Al Wahda has been rewarded with a bumper contract extension until 2023, less than two months since his recruitment courtesy of game-changing new eligibility rules.
Al Ghassani, 20, has been a standout member of the group allowed to feature in the Arabian Gulf League during 2018/19 after November’s decision by UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan that children of Emirati women born to foreign fathers will be able to compete in official UAE competitions for the first time.
The electric forward – who boasts a lineage from Tanzania – came off the substitutes’ bench to score on his top-flight debut in last month’s 6-2 thrashing of promoted Ittihad Kalba. Such exciting ability saw the Clarets announce fresh terms on Saturday.
“The management of Al Wahda extends the contract of the young player Yahya Al Ghassani for five years to support the team,” they tweeted. “We wish him the best of luck.”
Al Ghassani’s electric skills were honed in the academy of the defunct Al Ahli – now known as Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club. But old eligibility legislation meant for him to play for them, he would have taken up a valuable slot in the foreign quartet.
The attacker also explored a move to Europe last summer, prior to linking up with 2017/18’s AGL runners-up.
Al Ghassani is now expected to be fast-tracked into the UAE Under-23 set-up.
UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni has kept the faith and declared “things will get better” even though a 2-0 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago made it eight months since his last taste of victory.
Catalonia’s Estadio Municipal de Montilivi on Thursday witnessed the returns of 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout to the Whites line-up for the first time since January’s tumultuous Gulf Cup final loss to Oman.
But the star duo could not prevent goals in either half from Ataulla Guerra and Nathan Lewis inflicting a fifth reversal in 12 maudlin matches upon the worried 2019 Asian Cup hosts.
“We have received two cross-ball goals,” Zaccheroni told Dubai Sports. “In the coming days, we will work to correct those mistakes.
“All the players have figured out how to play. What we lacked was a pass into the front trio, but I cannot ask for more from the players.
“We are at the beginning of a season, and this is normal. Over time, things will get better.”
Kicking off in Zaccheroni’s trademark 3-4-1-2 formation, the Whites lacked fluidity and only meekly threatened through Al Wasl defensive midfielder Khamis Esmail’s hopeful shot.
The breakthrough in Spain came on 37 minutes when Charleston Battery midfielder Guerra converted from close range. This lead was doubled just before the hour mark when Indy Eleven winger Lewis ghosted in unmarked at the back post.
The UAE next meet minnows Laos – ranked 178th by FIFA, 101 places below them – on Tuesday (22:00 UAE).