Celebrated former Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Australia boss Bert van Marwijk landed in the UAE on Wednesday night to officially begin the nation’s long drive towards World Cup 2022.
Van Marwijk, 66, was announced by the UAE Football Association as successor to Italy’s Alberto Zaccheroni in the early evening. Details of the arrangement were not provided, but a four-year contract – worth approximately €3.6 million per annum, including technical staff – has been inked that encompasses the entire cycle for the global tournament and Asian Cup 2023.
The Dutchman will be presented to media immediately prior to Thursday’s friendly against the depleted Saudis at Al Wahda’s redeveloped Al Nahyan Stadium. Emirati caretaker Saleem Abdulrahman will remain in charge for that clash, plus Tuesday’s meeting with Syria – also in Abu Dhabi – at Al Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Zaccheroni’s employment, which began in October 2017, was not continued after January’s brutal semi-final exit on home soil at Asian Cup 2019. His successor does not face a competitive match until September, when the protracted process to earn a second-ever World Cup appearance starts for the Whites.
“The UAE Football Association has completed contractual procedures with Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk,” a statement read. “He will be officially presented at a press conference on Thursday.”
Van Marwijk earned one cap for the Netherlands during his playing career. After retirement, he led the likes of Feyenoord – with whom he lifted the 2001/02 UEFA Cup – and Borussia Dortmund, prior to guiding his native country to extra-time defeat in World Cup 2010’s final.
A troubled short stint at Hamburg preceded his fruitful hiring by the Saudis in August 2015. He earned qualification to World Cup 2018, but departed in September 2017.
Van Marwijk would then manage the Socceroos to a group-stage exit at the event.
Other candidates considered by the UAE FA included Morocco’s Herve Renard, Wahda’s Henk ten Cate and Croatia’s Zlatko Dalic.
Revered former Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Australia boss Bert van Marwijk is expected to fly on Wednesday and complete final negotiations about a deal the UAE are hopeful should take them all the way to World Cup 2022.
Van Marwijk, 66, has emerged as the UAE Football Association’s preferred candidate to replace the miserly Alberto Zaccheroni. Terms with the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan supremo were, predictably, not renewed after the Whites’ semi-final horror show on home soil at Asian Cup 2019.
The governing body’s technical committee decided to pursue the Dutchman – ahead of other options such as Morocco’s Herve Renard and Al Wahda’s Henk ten Cate – after they were impressed by his revitalisation of the Saudis from August 2015-September 2017. He provided a much-needed injection of discipline and purpose into the fractured Green Falcon ranks, ending their 12-year absence from the global tournament prior to a poisonous fall-out with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation post-qualification.
A four-year contract – equal to Zaccheroni’s package of approximately €3.6 million per annum, including technical staff – should imminently be inked by a tactician who also led his native Netherlands to World Cup 2010’s final and exited at the group stage with Australia in last summer’s event. Bar an unforeseen breakdown in talks, he could be in the stands for Thursday’s friendly against the Saudis or Tuesday’s meeting with Syria.
Van Marwijk has been acting as adviser to son-in-law Mark van Bommel at Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven.
The UAE’s current 25-man squad is training at Abu Dhabi’s Military Division Stadium under Emirati caretaker Saleem Abdulrahman. He was an assistant under Zaccheroni.
After a ‘Golden Generation’ was allowed to wither, missing out on World Cup 2018 under both the paternal Mahdi Ali and ex-Argentina supremo Edgardo Bauza, the UAE FA are placing an emphasis on long-term planning ahead of the protracted run to 2022. Qualifying commitments begin in September as the Whites aim to earn a second-ever appearance – their only trip, to date, came at Italia ’90.
They also desired a foreign leader with a firm grasp of English. Communication under exclusively Italian-speaking Zaccheroni was strained.
Van Marwijk, who expressed interest in the job immediately after the Asian Cup debacle and was also approached to replace Bauza in autumn 2017, was adjudged to fit this remit.
Attempts to recruit Renard were complicated by this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, plus competing interest from Iran. Ten Cate’s lack of international experience counted against him, even though he works in the Arabian Gulf League and won multiple domestic trophies with Al Jazira.
Coveted former Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic is untouchable at 2018 runners-up Croatia.
The managerless UAE regroup on Monday amid a state of limbo and festering sense of disappointment after their dismal end to Asian Cup 2019.
January’s heavy semi-final defeat on home soil ensured the miserly Alberto Zaccheroni’s reign would not be continued. His assistant, Saleem Abdulrahman, has been charged with overseeing a much-changed 25-man squad that will meet an under-strength Saudi Arabia and Syria in Abu Dhabi.
Here are the talking points:
WHERE THE WHITES ARE AT
March’s international break has come at an awkward moment.
The UAE are without a permanent manager, although negotiations with ex-Netherlands and Saudi boss Bert van Marwijk, among others, are ongoing.
Thoughts of immediately bringing through a fresh generation ahead of the World Cup 2022 cycle are hampered by the juniors’ commitments this month for 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualification.
A sizable contingent from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Al Wahda have also been excused selection because of Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup final.
Expect vast changes before the lengthy AFC process for global qualifying begins in September. This doesn’t mean, however, the current roster isn’t without intrigue.
KING TAKE THE THRONE
Changing times in the Arabian Gulf League are reflected in Abdulrahman’s roster.
Runaway leaders Sharjah only boasted left-back Alhasan Saleh and winger Saif Rashid for the Asian Cup. They’ve now been joined by defenders Abdullah Ghanem and Shahin Abdulrahman, plus goalkeeper Adel Al Hosani.
Al Ain have provided around a third of the selection since the ‘Golden Generation’ arose for London 2012. A combination of injury, increasing age and loss of form has cut their number to four.
The Whites have probably seen the last of servants such as veteran centre-back Ismail Ahmed and centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman.
مدرب المنتخب الأول سليم عبدالرحمن يستدعي خماسي الشارقة عادل الحوسني ، شاهين عبدالرحمن ، عبدالله غانم ، الحسن صالح ، سيف راشد ضمن قائمة منتخبنا الوطني الأول للمعسكر الداخلي الذي سيقام في أبوظبي للفترة من 18 إلى 26 مارس ضمن استعدادات الأبيض للإستحقاقات القادمة— Sharjah نادي الشارقة (@SharjahFC) March 16, 2019
WHO’LL GET THE GOALS?
The UAE’s varied goal threat was once the envy of Asia.
Now, Al Jazira predator Ali Mabkhout’s 48 strikes in 78 internationals represents 76.2 per cent of the total goals in this month’s roster. Injury and AG Cup commitments have denied them Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil, but these are also two diminished figures.
Succession planning is an issue. Al Nasr’s recalled Salem Saleh is the only other recognised striker and he’s scoreless in seven AGL run-outs, all as a replacement, this term.
Khalid Essa, Bandar Al Ahbabi, Ahmed Barman, Rayan Yaslam (Al Ain); Fahad Al Dhanhani, Hassan Al Moharrami, Suhail Al Noubi (Bani Yas); Suhail Al Mansoori (Al Dhafra); Mohammed Khalfan (Fujairah); Mansoor Abbas (Ittihad Kalba); Salem Rashid, Khalfan Mubarak, Ali Mabkhout, (Al Jazira); Mubarak Saeed, Mohammed Ibrahim, Habib Fardan, Salem Saleh (Al Nasr); Abdullah Al Naqbi (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club); Adel Al Hosani, Abdullah Ghanem, Shahin Abdulrahman, Al Hasan Saleh, Saif Rashid, (Sharjah); Ali Salmeen, Khamis Esmail (Al Wasl)
Thursday, March 21
17:45 UAE v Saudi Arabia
Tuesday, March 26
17:45 UAE v Syria