The depth of two UAE heavyweights’ squads will be tested on Friday when Al Jazira host Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
International football has decimated both rosters ahead of the clash at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Nearly half of the 26-man UAE squad is taken from their ranks (eight from Jazira, four from Al Ain), while the Pride of Abu Dhabi are also without South Africa midfielder Thulani Sereo and Togo striker Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba is missing for the visitors.
Victory at the halfway point in Group A will see Jurgen Streppel’s Jazira close on a quarter-final berth, while Al Ain want a first win.
Elsewhere in the pool, Al Dhafra are searching to maintain their 100-per-cent record when promoted Khor Fakkan visit. There is a Dubai derby on Saturday when leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club take the short trip to Al Nasr.
In Group B, Al Wahda will aim to make it nine points from nine and guarantee advancement when they host Bani Yas on Saturday.
On the same night, pointless Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah visit Ajman. On Friday, Fujairah desire a first win at Al Wasl.
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…
Former Manchester City and Spain striker Alvaro Negredo produced an audacious contender for goal of the season when Al Nasr kicked off their 2019/20 commitments with a 3-0 thrashing of Ittihad Kalba in the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Negredo, 34, conjured an artful turn to move inside the penalty box and then sent an unorthodox, outside-of-the-boot lob past stranded Tigers goalkeeper Jamal Ali to seal Friday’s Group A-walkover. Debutants Brandley Kuwas and Toze registered first-half goals versus opponents reduced to 10 men in the second half via Yaqoub Yousef’s red card.
Elsewhere in the pool, an entertaining 2-2 draw for Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club at Al Ain featured three converted penalties and a Henrique Luvannor bicycle kick for the visitors.
On Thursday, attacker Faisal Al Matroushi struck the season’s first goal as Al Jazira beat promoted Khor Fakkan 3-1.
In Group B, youngster Abdulla Anwar ably deputised for the injured star striker Sebastian Tagliabue as his brace earned a 3-1 triumph for Al Wahda over Fujairah.
The section’s two games on Thursday were headlined by a 2-0 victory for Bani Yas against Arabian Gulf League champions Sharjah. Spanish striker Pedro Conde got both goals.
It was scoreless in Ajman when they welcomed returning Hatta.