Former AC Milan, Lazio, Juventus and Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni undertook final negotiations in Dubai with the UAE Football Association on Sunday as the hunt for Edgardo Bauza’s successor drew towards a conclusion.
Zaccheroni, 64, rejected an initial offer last week but landed in the Emirates late on Saturday night after a breakthrough was made on talks to lead the Whites on home soil at January 2019’s Asian Cup.
A desire to imminently name a replacement saw first-choice picks Ricardo Gareca of Peru and Jorge Luis Pinto of Honduras ruled out in the preceding days because of their commitments in next month’s inter-confederation play-offs – and then potentially the summer’s World Cup 2018.
If discussions reach a positive conclusion, the Italian will return to work for the first time since he was sacked by Beijing Guoan in May 2016 after two wins in nine games amid their worst-ever start to a Chinese Super League-campaign. Zaccheroni made his name at Udinese and Milan in the late 1990s, claiming the 1998/99 Serie A-title with the latter.
His only previous international post came with Japan. He won the 2011 Asian Cup, but resigned in the wake of a disappointing group-stage exit at World Cup 2014.
Zaccheroni has been drafted in by the Whites because of Bauza’s shock defection to Russian qualifiers Saudi Arabia last month, following just three mixed competitive matches in charge.
With no place earned at next year’s extravaganza, Zaccheroni will be judged by success at the following continental event. UAE FA president Marwan bin Ghalita has publicly targeted a run to the final.
The Whites squad will gather once again in early November. A friendly against World Cup entrants Egypt has been mooted.
Meanwhile, one Italian could be set to depart the UAE after Al Nasr’s Cesare Prandelli was linked to the vacant Scotland post.
The Daily Mail stated on Sunday that the ex-Azzurri tactician is interested in exiting the Blue Wave after only five months in charge.
Qatar reacted angrily on Wednesday after the United Arab Emirates questioned whether it should be allowed to host the 2022 World Cup without a change of policy.
A UAE minister had said on Tuesday that Doha’s hosting of the tournament should include a commitment to fighting extremism, comments that threatened to engulf the sport in the diplomatic crisis that has riven the region since June.
The UAE and three other Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia have cut all diplomatic and transport links with Qatar and barred its citizens until it meets their demand for a drastic change in policy.
UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that Qatar’s hosting of the world’s premier football tournament risked tarnishing the game.
Hosting World Cup 2022 should not be tainted by suppot of extremist individuals & orgs/ terrorist figures,review of Qatar’s policies a must.
— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) October 10, 2017
Qatar’s hosting of World Cup 2022 should include a repudiation of policies supporting extremism & terrorism. Doha should review its record.
— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) October 10, 2017
Qatar retorted that Gargash’s comments were just “petty jealousy” from the UAE, whose main cities Abu Dhabi and Dubai have long prided themselves on being the natural venues for major international events in the Gulf.
“The UAE’s demand that Qatar give up the World Cup shows their illegal blockade is founded on petty jealousy, not real concerns,” a government statement said.
“The World Cup, like our sovereignty, is not up for discussion or negotiation.”
Qatar is the first Arab country to be chosen to host the FIFA World Cup.
The wealthy emirate has launched massive construction projects in preparation for hosting the tournament.
They have triggered a huge influx of migrant labour that has seen the population surge to 2.4 million but also raised criticism of working and living conditions for the 90 percent of them who are foreigners.
The UAE will open their Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup campaign against Portugal at the tournament’s swanky new home at Marasi Business Bay, hoping to get off to a good start as they bid to make the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time since 2013.
The annual invitation-only beach soccer extravaganza has been calling Dubai International Marine Club its home since 2013 after visiting Jumeirah Beach Residence for the inaugural edition in 2011 and Dubai Festival City the following year.
This year, the seventh edition of the tournament, which brings eight of the sport’s best teams from every continent to Dubai, will be hosted by Dubai Properties at their stunning new development Marasi Business Bay from October 31 to November 4.
Brazil, the defending champions and 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup winners, will make first use of the brand new sandy pitches when they meet Egypt in the opening match of the tournament, which has become one of the landmark events on Dubai’s glittering sporting calendar.
The hosts UAE, who lost all three of their group matches last year and finished seventh – their worst finish in six editions of the tournament – will be hoping to make amends as they take on 2015 World Cup winners Portugal in the second match of the opening day.
Drawn in a tough Group A, the Whites will face familiar foes Egypt on day two before taking on Brazil on the final day of group matches, with a knockout berth potentially at stake.
“The first match is always very important,” said Mohammad Al Mazmi, the UAE national beach soccer team coach. “It is certainly not an easy match, but you are never going to have easy matches in a tournament likes this, which brings eight of the world’s best teams together.
“Hopefully we can prepare well and make a good start,” added Al Mazmi, whose team have not played competitively since their group-exit from the 2017 World Cup, which was held in the Bahamas in May.
The UAE lost 1-2 to Portugal in their third and final group match at the World Cup to narrowly miss out on a quarterfinal spot.
“A good start will boost the players’ confidence and we can then carry that momentum. So our focus will be on the first match. We have not played for a few months and it will be important to play a lot of friendly matches before we take on Portugal.
“Insha’Allah everything will be good and we will make our fans proud by reaching the knockout stages.”
Iran, the 2016 runners-up and 2013 champions, will open their campaign against Paraguay in day one’s final clash, taking the pitch after the opening Group B match between three-time champions Russia and Mexico.
In what should be the match of the group stages, Russia, who have reached the final in five of the six Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup, will face-off against Iran in front of potentially packed stands late on Thursday night.
Intercontinental Cup matches between those two arch-rivals in the past have always been played out in front of packed, boisterous stands.
The semi-finals are scheduled for Friday, while the final and the play-offs will take place on Saturday.
Tuesday, October 31
16:15: Egypt vs Brazil (Group A)
17:30: Portugal vs UAE (Group A)
18:45: Russia vs Mexico (Group B)
20:00: Iran vs Paraguay (Group B)
Wednesday, November 1
16:15: UAE vs Egypt (Group A)
17:30: Brazil vs Portugal (Group A)
18:45: Paraguay vs Russia (Group B)
20:00: Mexico vs Iran (Group B)
Thursday, November 2
16:15: Mexico vs Paraguay (Group B)
17:30: Egypt vs Portugal (Group A)
18:45: UAE vs Brazil (Group A)
20:00: Iran vs Russia (Group B)