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.
Al Ain superstar Omar Abdulrahman remains highly unlikely to make a long-predicted switch to Europe this summer – with a gentleman’s agreement to exit predicated on victory in the AFC Champions League.
Abdulrahman, 25, has reportedly been offered a loan move to Ligue 1’s Nice for 2017/18. This follows on from links to the likes of Arsenal, Valencia, Hamburg and Benfica since a move to Manchester City officially broke down in the aftermath of the London 2012 Olympics because of work-permit regulations.
Voetbal International further fanned these flames on Wednesday by stating the French side’s move for Netherlands great Wesley Sneijder has been put on hold until they receive a definitive answer from the 2016 AFC Player of the Year in the coming days.
But this reply is not likely to be positive. The Boss have made no provisions for such a cataclysmic exit ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for the latter stages of the 2017 ACL, a competition in which they must prevail – beginning with the imminent quarter-final against Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal – to qualify for next year’s edition.
Chairman Ghanem Al Hajeri also stated last month that “we haven’t officially received any offer” for Amoory. Even if this is bluster, it is likely only intervention from the highest levels of Emirati society could convince them to allow their key player to exit now – yet alone after registration has closed.
This was not the case last winter when Abdulrahman’s camp was made aware success in the 2016 ACL final against South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors could finally lead to acquiescence about a switch to Europe, through Al Ain’s sense of gratitude. But a 3-2 aggregate loss ended that scenario.
If Amoory does make the switch this time, he will hope for more success than UAE team-mate Hamdan Al Kamali. The centre-back failed to make any appearances for Lyon’s first team during a six-month loan in 2013.
Abdulrahman has scored 55 goals and assisted 101 more during his 204 appearances for the Garden City-outfit since his January 2009 debut.
He agreed a four-year contract extension in February 2015. Demands to match his current €5 million (Dh21.6m) per annum net pay are another considerable obstacle to Nice’s overtures, even though they are backed by a Chinese/American consortium.
Meanwhile, Amoory might not be the only Abdulrahman to depart Al Ain after older brother Mohamed reportedly emerged as a target for Riyadh’s Al Nassr.
Abdulrahman, 28, has been a vital utility attacker for the Boss since his bow in 2008. Erem News have stated that a loan return to the city of his birth could be an option, as they look to fill their Asian-qualified spot in the foreign quota.
Excitement for the new Arabian Gulf League season will ramp up from tomorrow with the Pro League Committee announcing its fixtures for the 2017/18 campaign.
The draw will be conducted in the press conference room of the UAE Football Association’s headquarters in Al Khawaneej, Dubai, at 16:30.
All eyes will be on reigning AGL champions Al Jazira as well as the opening day fate of Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club following the merger between Al Shabab, Al Ahli and Dubai CSC in May.
For the first time since 2011/12, the top flight will also drop down to 12 teams – with newly promoted Ajman the only fresh faces.
The new season of domestic action in the UAE will kick-off with a reformatted Arabian Gulf Cup on September 4. It will now be played out in two groups of six, with the top four from each meeting in the quarter-finals, which will be two-legged, as well as the semi-finals, before a one-off final.
progress to the two-legged quarter-final and on to a two-legged semi-final then the one-legged final.
Previously, only the first two teams progressed from the pools straight to the semi-finals – with hopes the new format will attract stronger crowds and increase competition.
Elsewhere, an Abu Dhabi derby Arabian Gulf Super Cup between league champions Jazira and President’s Cup winners Al Wahda will take place on September 15 – a decision on venue remains to be made.
The top-flight entertainment begins a day later, with all domestic play set to end on April 29 to give time for World Cup 2018 preparation.
Al Ain and their opponents will be the only teams to feature in AG Cup action on September 4 because of the Boss’ commitments in the 2017 AFC Champions League’s quarter-finals. The rest of the participants will take to the field on September 8 and 9.
Another alteration for next term is the introduction of online ticket sales. This is viewed as an important method of increased revenue generation as the competition moves away from hard ticket sales.
Like the AG Cup, the AGL draw will also take place in two stages, the first including the top six teams from last season while the second includes the teams ranked seventh to 12th.