Al Wahda defender Ahmed Rashid and winger Suhail Al Noubi of relegated Bani Yas were the only new faces selected on Monday by UAE coach Edgardo Bauza for a predictable 30-man squad, which faces a mission impossible in the imminent finale to World Cup 2018 qualifying.
The Whites critically sit fourth in Group B for the third-and-final stage, six points and one place outside the progression spots. They must hammer third-place Saudi Arabia in Al Ain on August 29 and eliminated Iraq in Amman, Jordan on September 5 to hold a slim chance of contesting for the inter-confederation play-off, on goal difference.
Despite the parlous situation caused by June 13’s 1-1 draw on debut in Thailand, the recently-dismissed Argentina coach has resisted calls to widely raid the youth ranks.
Rashid, 20, and Al Noubi, 21, both impressed when the junior Whites last month failed to make the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship. But Al Jazira forward Ahmed Al Attas, 21, was overlooked despite then scoring three goals in three games.
Another surprise absentee from the Pride of Abu Dhabi was electric playmaker Khalfan Mubarak. The 22-year-old was an unused substitute in Bangkok under El Paton.
Al Ain’s players have been excused from meeting up with the rest of the squad on Friday in the Garden City because of Monday’s 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-final, first leg against Riyadh giants Al Hilal.
Khalid Essa, Mohammed Ahmed, Ismail Ahmed, Mohaned Salem, Ahmed Barman, Omar Abdulrahman, Mohamed Abdulrahman (Al Ain); Suhail Al Noubi (Bani Yas); Ali Khaseif, Mohammed Fawzi, Fares Juma, Ahmed Khalil, Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira); Ahmed Shambieh, Mahmoud Khamis, Tariq Ahmed, Salem Saleh (Al Nasr); Majed Nasser, Abdulaziz Haikal, Mohammed Marzouq, Walid Abbas, Abdulaziz Sanqour, Khamis Esmail, Hassan Ibrahim, Habib Fardan (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club); Ahmed Rashid, Tariq Ahmed, Khaled Bawazir, Mohamed Al Akbari, Ismail Matar (Al Wahda)
World Cup 2018 qualifiers
20:30 UAE v Saudi Arabia
16:10 Iraq v UAE
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.