Khaseif believes squad harmony will serve UAE well

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Handle with care: Khaseif lost place in the UAE goal to Majed Nasser.

Ali Khaseif claims the UAE’s quest to reach World Cup 2018 is in “safe hands” because of the friendly rivalry between him and fellow goalkeepers.

Whites coach Mahdi Ali’s pool of shot stoppers for the forthcoming qualifiers against Thailand and Saudi Arabia contains the aforementioned Al Jazira stopper, plus Al Ahli’s Majed Nasser and Ahmed Dida, now of Bani Yas.

This enviable strength in depth is exemplified further by the fact injury has ruled out Al Ain’s Khalid Essa, who started the famous 2-1 victory in Japan and narrow 1-0 loss to Australia as the third-and-final round in the AFC process got under way last month.

With players of such regional renown competing to be No. 1, jealousy and a self-serving attitude could fester. Yet Khaseif insists selfish behaviour like that is the last thing on their minds, as they look ahead to tomorrow’s clash against outsiders Thailand at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and next Tuesday’s vital trip to Saudi Arabia.

“The UAE are in safe hands with their goalkeepers,” said the 29-year-old, who is expected to back-up the returning Nasser for both games.

“Okay, If I play, Majed or Khalid, we are all the same and have the same target. It is important that the team wins. Inshallah, it is onlyimportant how myself, Majid or Khalid help us win.”

Of the current selection, Khaseif is returning to form after injuries saw him lose both his spot in the XI and the captain’s armband.

A fractured thumb led to Nasser – who has cut out his wild excesses – missing the previous competitive games, while Dida played in the 2015 AFC Champions League final when he was at Ahli and has blossomed since gaining regular playing time with the Sky Blues this term.

“Of course, we are very, very good friends,” said Khaseif, who has won 31 caps. “We are not only goalkeepers. All goalkeepers in the UAE have contact with each other. We sit sometimes together.

“There are many goalkeepers from Fujairah. I am from Fujairah, so is Majed. We are like family. It is a good challenge for us.”

The Whites lie fourth in Group B on three points after a daunting start against Japan and Australia in which the UAE claimed three points with a 2-1 triumph in Saitama followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat to the Socceroos in Abu Dhabi.

Next week’s clash against the Green Falcons is of huge significance, with both sides likely to be competing to finish third and potentially enter the inter-confederation play-off. But Khaseif was maintaining focus on the closest challenge.

He added: “We have confidence for the next game against Thailand.

“Now I cannot speak about Saudi Arabia. This is because we have the Thailand game to play. I think only about Thailand. We have confidence. We take it step-by-step..

“When we have finished that, we think about Saudi Arabia.”

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UAE draw Brazil in Beach Soccer Cup Dubai

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The draw is unveiled.

The sixth edition of the tournament, which is sponsored by Samsung and organised by Dubai Sports Council, will be held at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) from November 1-5.

The official draw for the competition was conducted yesterday by tournament director Alex Soriano in the presence of Dubai Sports Council general secretary Saeed Hareb and Fifa Beach Soccer Worldwide executive vice president Joan Cusco.

Defending champions Russia are in Group B, alongside the United States, Iran and Egypt. Russia are three time champions of the tournament and beat Tahiti 5-2 in the final last year. The draw was conducted by renowned Emirati football referees Ibrahim Al Mansouri and Ahmad Al Salami.

The tournament will be played as a round-robin in the group stages, following which the top two teams will qualify for the semi-finals which will be played between winners of Group A against the Group B runner-up and vice versa.

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Raducan coy about Bani Yas Etisalat Cup encounter

Matt Jones 5/10/2016
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Henk ten Cate.

Catalin Raducan insists form counts for nothing as Al Ahli welcome struggling Bani Yas to Rashid Stadium today.

The Sky Blues are bottom of Group A without a win and have just a point from four games this season, but the Red Knights’ assistant coach says they will not take Pablo Repetto’s side lightly.

“You do not have to look for the scheduling because Bani Yas’ first games were not successful,” said the Romanian.

“They are an outstanding team and have good players, a new coach, and meeting them is difficult under any circumstances because they are a stubborn team, and we will deal with the match with the seriousness required.”

Veteran Bani Yas striker Saleh Al Menhali claims fortune has not been with his side so far this season.

“We will enter the match to get the three points and the team is only thinking about victory,” said the 32-year-old.

Meanwhile, Al Jazira face Al Wasl at Baniyas Stadium as the UAE national team are using Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier against Thailand.

Former Jazira defender Khalid Sabeal is trying to move the focus away from himself as he takes on his former employers.

“I don’t think about myself, what matters is the team as a whole,” he said. “We have an important match with Al Jazira and we need to get the three points.”

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