A youthful UAE team land in Malaysia on Wednesday as preparations for their opening World Cup 2022 qualifier amplify.
Ex-Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk enacted a bold generational change for last week’s opening friendly wins against Dominican Republic (4-0) and Sri Lanka (5-1) in Bahrain. There was also the welcome return of a familiar – and celebrated – face in Omar Abdulrahman.
Here, we analyse how the Whites are shaping up ahead of September 10’s clash at the 87,411-capacity Bukit Jalil National Stadium:
RISE OF THE ‘SHABAB’
Winds of change have, belatedly, blown away the dust that clogged Edgardo Bauza and Alberto Zaccheroni’s failed reigns.
Through a combination of choice and necessity, more than a third of beaten World Cup 2010 finalist Van Marwijk’s travelling squad (9/26) are aged 23 and under.
From this ‘shabab’ (youth in Arabic), some starlets shine brighter than others.
Al Jazira defenders Khalifa Al Hammadi and Mohammed Al Attas should provide the bedrock to any future success. Then, there is rousing Al Wasl forward Ali Saleh.
The superb goal on his first start against Sri Lanka showed why the 19-year-old is so highly spoken of.
A group is being formed that will, hopefully, carry the UAE through the long AFC process and onto a second-ever qualification.
After 315 days, one missed Asian Cup and an acrimonious departure for Al Jazira from Al Hilal, Amoory is back.
The 2016 AFC Player of the Year emerged as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 5-1 dismantling of minnows Sri Lanka.
Full recovery from October 2018’s devastating knee injury is paramount. Deducing whether this includes being ready to start in Malaysia is Van Marwijk’s defining task ahead of next Tuesday.
In the fruitless 2018 process, Amoory got six assists in a 10-0 home thrashing of the same opponent and then scored in a 2-1 away win.
His class and know-how will be key at a bear-pit Bukit Jalil. Another serious setback, however, could end UAE hopes in the first game…
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