The UAE sprung a surprise on Sunday and turned to ex-Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic, on an undisclosed contract, as the man to salvage their waning World Cup 2022 dream.
Jovanovic, 57, has been out of work since he was sacked by the Blue Wave for a second time last December after less than a year at the helm. His triumphant first stint at Al Maktoum Stadium, however, from June 2013-October 2016 included the end of a 25-year trophy drought with the 2014 GCC Club Cup, plus an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a season later.
Deep knowledge of the local scene by the Serbian – who has never led a national team – and promotion of young players saw him picked out as the ideal man to replace dismissed World Cup 2010 finalist Bert van Marwijk. The revered 67-year-old was removed this month after only 260 days in charge, following group-stage elimination at the Gulf Cup and two-successive second-round qualifying defeats on the, long, road to Qatar.
“The selection came after a series of meetings of the National Teams and Technical Affairs Committee that studied a number of CVs for coaches to oversee training the Whites,” said Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Transitional Committee of the UAE Football Association.
“A choice was made on Ivan Jovanovic due to the distinctive characteristics of his biography that fit the criteria set. The most important of which is his ambition and full knowledge of Emirati football.
“The current stage requires the concerted efforts of all sporting bodies, institutions, clubs, media and audiences in order to provide an appropriate environment for the national team to perform its tasks in the best way. This stage requires working with the spirit of one team in order to achieve positive results in regional, continental and international forums.”
Jovanovic, who led Cypriot minnows APOEL to the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, will currently debut for the Whites in March 26’s critical visit of Malaysia.
Losses at Thailand and Vietnam have left them fourth in Group G. Only top spot guarantees progression to the third round, while only the four-best runners-up will also advance.
The Whites’ only appearance at the World Cup came in 1990.
Jovanovic’s addition comes after a tumultuous few weeks in the wake of December 2’s 4-2 beating by Qatar in the Gulf competition. This result forced the exits of president Marwan bin Ghalita and his cohort.
Van Marwijk soon followed. This made Jovanovic the nation’s fourth permanent boss since March 2017.
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