Euro 2016 finalists Iceland expecting a difficult game against UAE in Dubai

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Al Wahda defender Hamdan Al Kamali (r) is back in the UAE squad after a year out.

The visitors have arrived in the Emirates for a brief training camp as they continue preparations for this summer’s bow at a major tournament.

A second-string squad minus established stars such as Swansea City midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and Olympiakos striker Alfred Finnbogason is present because the camp does not fall during a designated FIFA international period, with the players drawn from Nordic countries and China.

“It will be a tough game, as the UAE can play their strongest team,” said joint head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson.

“I don’t know how their coach (Mahdi Ali) is thinking about the game against Iceland, but it could be a really tough one for us.

“We will field players who will probably be not used to our system and with each other. The environment and the climate will also be very different for them.

“I know it will be a tough game. The UAE look like a really good team. It gives us an opportunity to give players experience who wouldn’t normally be involved. These are games we can use to try our new players.”

Iceland will be looking to make it two wins in five days after IFK Norrkoping midfielder Arnor Ingvi Traustason’s sole stirke secured victory at Military Sports Complex Stadium against Finland on Wednesday. They will look to 37-year-old former Barcelona and Chelsea forward Eidur Gudjohnsen to lead the way in Dubai.

For the UAE, the friendly will provide an insightful test ahead of March’s defining AFC second-round clashes at home against third-placed Palestine and Group A leaders Saudi Arabia. Victory in the final pair of fixtures is likely to be required to continue on the long road to World Cup 2018 and end an often unconvincing opening stage in a positive manner.

Al Wahda defender Hamdan Al Kamali has been recalled after a year in the wilderness, last featuring during the run to third at the 2015 Asian Cup. The 26-year-old promised to vindicate Ali’s decision.

He said: “I hope to match the level of the confidence that the coach gave me and offer a satisfactory level. Playing with this group of players is a great incentive for me. This comes at a critical time in the preparations for the matches with Palestine and Saudi Arabia in March. The meeting against Iceland is very important.”

Controversial Al Ahli goalkeeper Majed Nasser is likely to start upon his return to the fold thanks to No1 Khalid Essa’s absence because of a family matter, plus injuries to club-mate Ahmed Dida and Al Jazira’s Ali Khaseif. A special evening for right-back Ahmed Al Yassi could see him debut in the familiar surroundings of Al Maktoum Stadium, the venue for his club side Al Nasr.

The UAE will have one final warm-up game on March 19 against Bangladesh.

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UAE grind out crucial 1-0 win in AFC under-23 Championship opener

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The UAE opened their AFC under-23 championships campaign with a win in Doha.

The UAE kicked off their AFC under-23 Championships campaign with a win over Australia in Doha on Thursday night.

Aussie player Giancarlo Gallifuoco inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net late on as the UAE grinded out a 1-0 win to start Group D in strong fashion.

The tournament provides teams with a route through into next summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

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UAE U23 ready to begin Olympic qualifying vs. Australia

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Representing UAE: Mohamad Al Akbari.

UAE boss Dr Abdullah Misfer has declared the fight to secure a spot at Rio 2016 is wide open ahead of the nation’s AFC U-23 Championship opener against Australia on Thursday night. The Whites need a top-three finish in Qatar this month to earn a second-successive entry into the Olympics.

The Olyroos are first up at Grand Hamad Stadium in Group D and former Al Dhafra supremo Misfer is under no illusion about the task facing him. He said: “The technical level of all 16 teams in Asia is very high and we expect fierce competition between all teams.

“All the teams have a chance to win and we are one of the teams coming to compete at this tournament and qualify for the Olympics. The preparation depends on the team and the quality of the team, but of course we respect Australia. We have to play well against Australia, but we have a good team and we can perform well.”

The UAE arrived in Doha on Sunday following a three-week preparatory period which included two separate training camps, plus friendly victories against North Korea and China and a defeat to hotly-tipped South Korea.

They boast a talented squad, headlined by Al Jazira playmaker Khalfan Mubarak, Al Wahda forward Mohamed Al Akbari and Al Ain defensive midfielder Ahmed Barman. A top-two finish in their pool will provide entry to the quarter-finals, with Jordan on Sunday and Vietnam on Wednesday awaiting after the Australia test.

“After the group stage, we can talk about competing for the title and if we can qualify for Rio 2016,” Misfer insisted.

Australia and the UAE also competed against each for a berth at London 2012. The pair shared a goalless draw in Adelaide before a solitary effort from Al Ain superstar Omar Abdulrahman settled a tight contest in Abu Dhabi.

The Olyroos eventually finished at the foot of the qualifying table without a win, while the UAE went on to catch the eye at the Games.

This recent history ensured coach Aurelio Vidmar was taking nothing for granted. He said: “We know the UAE very well. Our country has a long history with games against the UAE. They have talented players and if you look back at the last generation which is now with the senior team, I see the same in this group.”

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