Discord within the UAE squad and panic by the UAE Football Association about embarrassment on home soil at next year’s Asian Cup are growing after a 2-0 defeat to undercooked Trinidad and Tobago made it five internationals without victory for coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
Goals in either half from Ataulla Guerra and Nathan Lewis at a deserted Estadio Municipal de Montilivi saw the Soca Warriors cruise to victory. This was despite the fact they last played in April, plus were unable to train in Catalonia until Wednesday because of an unforeseen lack of access to facilities.
With less than 120 days to go until the continental kick-off against Bahrain on January 5 at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City, the Whites are in a sorry state. Thursday’s setback followed on from last month’s appalling goalless draw against minnows Andorra, results that mean just four goals have been scored in the 12 matches overseen by Zaccheroni since his October 2017 appointment.
Legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate heads a list of potential successors should the desire for change catalyse after Tuesday’s run-out against lowly Laos.
“The players have made it known that they are not happy about the way things are going under Zaccheroni,” a source close to the squad said.
“Now, the UAE FA are losing patience and are worried about being embarrassed on home soil.
“Henk ten Cate was very successful at Al Jazira and has an excellent relationship with the players. He would be a strong option to lead the nation at the Asian Cup.”
Peru’s Ricardo Gareca and ex-Honduras boss Jorge Luis Pinto were among those considered before last year’s ill-judged hirings of Edgardo Bauza and Zaccheroni.
But with time running out, Ten Cate’s candidature holds special value.
He boasts current knowledge of the playing pool, plus strong relationships with the likes of Jazira hot shot Ali Mabkhout after he lifted the 2016 President’s Cup and 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium from December 2015-May 2018.
Rising UAE Under-23 talents such as Zayed Al Ameri, Mohamed Al Attas and Ahmed Al Attas were among the youngsters to gain valuable minutes during his tenure.
He previously turned down the Netherlands job in April 2017.
Zaccheroni’s record in charge now reads four wins, three draws and five defeats. His last victory came on January 2 against Iraq in the Gulf Cup semi-finals.
The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician has been tasked with making the Asian Cup final.
Summer buy Ernest Asante’s impressive start continued as he inspired Al Jazira’s 5-2 thrashing of Fujairah in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Asante, 29, lobbed home the opener and forward Ahmed Rabea made it 5-0 by 57 minutes from his cross. In-between, midfielder Abdalla Ramadan smashed in, Brazilian winger Leonardo struck a perfect free-kick and full-back Salim Rashid literally broke the net with a rasping drive.
In response, Wolves skipper Omar Kissoko struck a powerful effort and teed up midfielder Ahmad Murad.
Elsewhere in Group B’s first round, Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ain saw Brazilian forward Caio score twice and assist another in a 4-1 win at Sharjah.
Caio made it 2-0 by 35 minutes thanks to a penalty-kick and low shot. His later cross then set-up Japan utility man Tsukasa Shiotani.
Playmaker Igor Coronado’s tapped in to make it 3-1 on 79 minutes, before ex-Sharjah forward Jamal Maroof forcefully struck.
Brazilian winger Marcos Gabriel’s volley earned a 1-0 win for 10-man Al Nasr – defender Hamad Hasan was sent off – versus Emirates Club.
Superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s grand return for the UAE is set to take place in unlikely surroundings on Thursday when troubled preparations for January 2019’s Asian Cup continue with a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago (20:00 UAE) at Catalonia’s Estadi Palamos Costa Brava.
Here are the talking points from the first part of a double header that concludes with Tuesday’s meeting with lowly Laos.
AMOORY’S RESCUE MISSION
The time for reintroductions has arrived.
Amoory, 26, finally departed UAE borders this summer. But after years of speculation about a ground-breaking switch to Europe, he now dons the proud blue of Saudi Arabia behemoths Al Hilal.
The ex-Al Ain idol has not played for the Whites since January because of misdemeanours – along with fellow returnee Ali Mabkhout of Al Jazira – at that month’s Gulf Cup, subsequent absence for March’s King’s Cup and complications caused by a wrought exit that ensured he missed August’s Austria training camp. That concluded with a depressing goalless draw against minnows Andorra.
Abdulrahman has shown flashes of genius in two competitive – and goalless – starts for Hilal.
The 2016 AFC Player of the Year’s spark is desperately required by struggling Whites coach Alberto Zaccheroni.
الأبيض يستعد لمواجهته الدولية الودية أمام منتخب ترينداد وتوباغو الخميس ضمن معسكره الحالي المقام في مدينة جيرونا الإسبانية استعدادا لنهائيات كأس آسيا الإمارات 2019 ..#منتخب_الإمارات pic.twitter.com/D5RKU14TXq— UAE NT (@uaent2019) September 4, 2018
TRINIDAD’S ROUGH TRIP
A sojourn in Spain has brought nothing but misery for towering Soca Warriors boss Dennis Lawrence.
The ex-Everton first-team development coach’s squad arrived on Monday and hadn’t trained by Wednesday morning.
“I believe it’s the representative of the match agent, those are the ones that got everything wrong in terms of no bus turning up for our training sessions and no pitches arranged,” an infuriated Lawrence stated.
Time together was precious for undercooked Trinidad. April’s 1-0 friendly defeat against World Cup 2018 qualifiers Panama was the last time they played.
ZACCH MUST ATTACK
The Asian Cup currently elicits a sense of dread for the host nation.
Since Zaccheroni’s October 2017 appointment, the Whites have scored just four goals in 12 matches. This dull dozen includes four wins, four draws and four defeats.
Optimism about a repeat of 2015’s remarkable run to third in the previous continental tournament is at a low ebb.
Trinidad, placed 14 spots below the 77th-ranked UAE by FIFA after a period of inactivity, and Laos, currently ranked 178th, should provide both contrasting styles and easy prey for a team in need of rejuvenation.
For starters, Zaccheroni’s trademark 3-4-1-2 formation should gain vigour thanks to Abdulrahman and stellar striker Mabkhout’s reintegration. Midfielder Amer Abdulrahman, meanwhile, must build on a strong start to 2018/19 for Al Ain, which contrasts his insipid role in the Andorra debacle.