The ailing UAE must “erase the image” shown in last week’s alarming Trinidad and Tobago loss and belatedly kick-start their 2019 Asian Cup preparations on Tuesday against minnows Laos, according to veteran centre-back Mohanad Salem.
Under-pressure boss Alberto Zaccheroni oversaw a fifth-successive winless match when the undercooked Caribbeans – who had not played since April and only managed to train 24 hours before Thursday’s friendly – eased to a 2-0 victory at Catalonia’s Estadi Palamos Costa Brava.
This latest worrisome result forced the UAE Football Association to issue a public vote of confidence, with less than four months to go until they host the continental competition. Al Ain’s Zoran Mamic also distanced himself from talk of being drafted in, while legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate holds interest in the position.
For Boss defender Salem, the current coach’s eye for detail means he remains the right man to lead them into January 5’s big kick-off against Bahrain at Zayed Sports City.
“Laos is an opportunity for us to erase the image that we showed during the last match, in which we did not present the expected form,” said the 33-year-old warrior.
“All the players know how important this stage of preparation is. Everyone is keen to give everything in order to seal their place in the final squad.
“The technical staff must be praised for the way they help the players in all respects; technical, physical and psychological, as well as dealing with mistakes immediately.”
Former AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo Zaccheroni spoke in the aftermath of the need for increased fluidity between midfield and attack. This could see Al Ain centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman restored to the XI.
Al Nasr centre-back Khalifa Mubarak and Al Ain right wing-back Bandar Al Ahbabi are other contenders to start.
The Whites only threatened with pot shots against Trinidad. This was despite the fact 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 Asian Cup top scorer Ali Mabkhout returned for the first time since January 5’s breaking of curfew before the consequential Gulf Cup final loss to Oman.
Laos are ranked 178th by FIFA, 101 places below the UAE. They have not played since March’s 2-2 draw v Bangladesh and are rebuilding after 15 current or former players were banned for life by the AFC in February 2017 for match-fixing.
When the nations last met in Abu Dhabi during June 2017, a 4-0 victory was earned by the Whites.
Thoughts of a free hit, however, are negated by the fact that Andorra were placed at 130th last month when a listless goalless draw was registered at the end of a three-week training camp in Austria.
Yo-yo club Ittihad Kalba’s frantic start to 2018/19 has continued with the addition of Colombian centre forward Tommy Tobar from Venezuela’s Carabobo FC on a free transfer.
The promoted Tigers – who have alternated between the top-two divisions since promotion was won in 2009/10 – have already sacked coach Jorvan Vieira and brought back ex-AC Milan midfielder Fabio Viviani for a second stint at the helm. This followed August 31’s opening 6-2 thrashing by Al Wahda in the Arabian Gulf League.
Croatia forward Antonio Perosevic’s poor early impression upon arrival from Puskas Akademia saw him ditched in favour of Brazilian striker Myke Ramos of MTK Budapest last week, also on a season-long loan. Nigeria midfielder Raheem Lawal’s broken ankle in September 4’s goalless draw at Al Wasl in the Arabian Gulf Cup then created another vacancy in the foreign quartet that well-travelled Tobar will fill.
The 31-year-old struck 32 times in 65 run-outs for Carabobo in the Venezuelan Primera Division. This followed 2016/17’s prolific stint with Al Shamal in the Qatargas League, where he scored eight goals in 10 appearances.
“Officially, Ittihad Kalba contracts with Colombian striker Tommy Tobar on a free transfer for one season,” Kalba tweeted.
This transfer is the 16th of the striker’s career. He’s also represented Bolivia’s National Potosi, plus 11 Colombian outfits – including two stints at Millonarios.
Tobar comes to Kalba amid a 12-game goalless streak. He will look to end this run when the AGL resumes after the international break on September 14 versus Emirates Club.
Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic Al Ain is “extremely flattered” but has distanced himself from reports that he’s a possible replacement for struggling UAE supremo Alberto Zaccheroni, for whom the Football Association rallied behind on Saturday night.
Zaccheroni, 65, has come under increased pressure in the wake of Thursday’s woeful 2-0 friendly defeat against undercooked Trinidad and Tobago. The Italian has overseen a troubled build-up to January 2019’s Asian Cup on home soil – the Whites are winless in five matches and have scored just four times in 12 games overseen by him since his October 2017 arrival.
Legendary former Al Jazira tactician Henk ten Cate has already moved himself into position as a potential successor. But the candidature of last term’s Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup double winner was also rumoured to be of interest to the worried UAE FA.
“I am extremely flattered and honoured that my name is mentioned in connection to the UAE head coach,” Mamic tweeted.
“But [the] national team has a coach, Mr Zaccheroni [who] is a great coach with an amazing career and as Al Ain coach I am totally focused on our next games.
“Al Ain will continue to support the national team as always.”
This preceded a tweet from the UAE FA’s official account that declared no talks had been held with any other coaches.
It read: “The UAE Football Association denies what is being circulated in the media and social networking sites about communicating with any coach to take over for the Asian Cup. We appeal to everyone to stand behind the Whites and not to disturb preparations for the championships.”
Mamic lifted five major trophies at Dinamo Zagreb from 2013-16, prior to a brief stint at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
Al Ain poached him in February 2017. He made history in 2017/18 when Al Ain – the UAE’s most-decorated club – were guided to a first-ever double of the nation’s premier competitions.
Zaccheroni’s current Whites squad will meet minnows Laos on Tuesday in Catalonia.
The ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo signed a contract until the end of the Asian Cup – a tournament in which he must make the final.