UAE legend Ismail Matar is the headline name in Mahdi Ali’s Whites squad announced for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with Palestine and Saudi Arabia at the end of the month.
The 32-year-old Al Wahda forward was named in the squad on Saturday, with the UAE also taking on Bangladesh in a friendly next Friday.
The 23-man squad includes nine players from current Arabian Gulf League leaders Al Ahli, including former Al Jazira midfielder Khamis Esmail who switched to the Red Knights in January.
There are six players from champions Al Ain, three from Al Jazira, two from Wahda, including Matar, and one each from Bani Yas, Al Shabab and Al Dhafra.
Ali’s men face Bangladesh a week today at Zayed Sports City’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium before a home double header against Palestine & Saudi.
Those games will be played at Jazira’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on March 24 (Palestine) and 29 (Saudi Arabia).
If Matar plays in any of these games it will be his first Whites appearance in more than a year.
The 112-times capped man, the UAE’s fourth most capped player, hasn’t played since a 1-0 win v Oman in the Gulf Cup on November 25, 2014.
The UAE are second in Group A of Asia qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, three points behind the Saudis who beat them in October.
Matar celebrated his call-up with a goal for Wahda in last night’s AGL game at Fujairah. The Clarets won 3-0 to temporarily go third in the league table.