I can’t tell you how the UAE lined up for Friday’s alarming final friendly loss against Kuwait.
I can’t tell you how Bader Al Matuwa and Omar Beitar’s goals were scored in a 2-0 triumph for opponents who did not qualify for the impending Asian Cup because of a two-year ban issued by FIFA for political interference. This suspension only expired last December.
I can’t tell you why the hosts neglected to build momentum ahead of January 5’s big kick-off, choosing to play a third match in their last five behind closed doors. Or why they wouldn’t even let the television cameras in, once again.
All that exists is a solitary picture of a Saif Rashed header on the UAE team’s Twitter page, plus a concise summation devoid of all pertinent information, except the scoreline, on the website.
The official party line states that Alberto Zaccheroni’s side needed to work in peace, away from prying eyes. This was not the time to give clues out to their continental opponents.
A cynical view would posit that the Whites have something to hide from unsettled supporters whose worries grow by the day. A possible beating by their neighbours in front of a worried crowd at Al Nasr’s resplendently renovated Al Maktoum Stadium would have provided a critical blow to, flimsy, morale that has already been devastated by awful results and key absentees.
What is known about the UAE’s preparations for the Asian Cup is that Zaccheroni’s record in charge reads: six wins, seven losses and five draws.
Since the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo was hired in October 2017, his side has scored 10 goals and conceded 11.
A squad that has boasted – when available – the likes of 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil, 2015 Asian Cup leading marksman Ali Mabkhout and 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman have drawn blanks 11 times. This represents 61.1 per cent of the Italian’s reign.
In 2018, the only nations beaten by the Whites in regulation time are Laos and Yemen. Their current FIFA rankings are 184 and 135.
The UAE ended 2017 in 73rd place. On December 20, they dropped to 79th.
Zaccheroni could be ready to, belatedly, impart a master plan.
But as with the blackout for the weekend’s Kuwait warm-up, there is still so much we don’t know about the UAE’s true prospects in the month ahead.
The faithful deserve better than to be left in the dark. Again.
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