The numbers make sorry reading for miserly UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni.
Saturday’s worrisome draw against minnows Andorra featured zero goals. It came against opponents ranked 130th in the world by FIFA, 56 places below the UAE.
This was the listless culmination of an 18-day training camp in the undulating Austrian countryside. A period in which fissures were opened up in the relationships with two of the nation’s biggest sides, Al Ain and Al Jazira, both angered by limited preparatory time for Arab Club Champions Cup ties.
In the 10 months of Zaccheroni’s cheerless reign, his record in internationals reads; four wins, four draws and four defeats. The Whites have become a boon to insomniacs throughout this period, scoring just four goals and conceding five.
Their run to consequential defeat in the winter’s Gulf Cup contained one strike in normal time.
Striker Ali Mabkhout got it from the penalty spot in the group-stage opener against Oman. For comparison, he top scored in 2014’s previous edition with five goals under Mahdi Ali.
Mabkhout is one of the UAE’s three totems, alongside now Al Hilal playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil. The first two mentioned broke curfew – along with now-discarded right-back Mohammed Fawzi – before the Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman and have played zero UAE internationals since.
Even though March’s exile for the Thailand’s King’s Cup ended this summer, neither were present for Sunday’s depressing stalemate at Grodig’s sun-drenched DAS.GOLDBERG Stadion.
Mabkhout is back in Abu Dhabi with Al Jazira after a 2-1 loss to Riyadh’s Al Nassr in last week’s ACCC’s opener. Abdulrahman had the small matter of making a winning debut for new paymasters in Saturday’s Saudi Super Cup clash against Al Ittihad at London’s Loftus Road.
Any Asian nation missing such premium talents will struggle. Even against Andorra.
Where insight could be found in the dour, aged methods of Zaccheroni came in the make-up of the starting XI selected.
The Italian could not help himself and chose eight defensively-minded players at kick-off. Only Khalil and fellow Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club star Ismail Al Hammadi could be classified as out-and-out attackers.
The digits to cause real concern are: 140. This is the number of days left over until the bumbling UAE kick-off the continental festivities against Bahrain on January 5.
Frankly, preparations could hardly be going any worse.
It’s seven years since Zaccheroni won the Asian Cup with Japan and 19 years since his defining Serie A success with AC Milan. Temptation must be building within the UAE Football Association to make it four different coaches since the beginning of March 2017.
After his controversial exit from Al Ain, where he had been for 12 years, Crescent fans got their first sight of the frizzy-haired magician at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Hilal took a 2-0 lead through Brazilian playmaker Carlos Eduardo and Venezuela striker Gelmin Rivas, before Morocco midfielder Karim El Ahmadi’s deflected strike made a game of it.
Here, we analyse the performance of the man known simply as Amoory.
There would have been huge clamour to get a first glimpse of Abdulrahman back in the famous blue of the Crescent, but Al Hilal fans shouldn’t expect too much from a player who’s hardly participated in pre-season.
He was on the periphery largely in London, but did play a surprisingly physical part in his side’s killer second goal. Another pass that almost led to a goal was a small sign of what can be expected this season.
Flashes of class – There was one moment in the first half where Amoory advanced with the ball and sliced an audacious pass with the outside of the left boot through to Saudi Arabia international Salem Al Dawsari. It was Amoory personified, but Assaf Al Qarni was out quickly to prevent a goal. It was a rare flash but an insight into just what Hilal have on their hands.
Doing too much – This was his first action of note this summer so we mustn’t be too critical, but whereas UAE football fans are used to seeing passes threaded through the eye of the needle and the ball depart off Amoory’s boot with laser-beam precision, most of his attempts in London were very wayward.
Not a 9 – Abdulrahman is many things; sublime footballer, team leader, exquisite passer and owner of an impressive hair-do. A bustling, commanding No9 striker – not so much. The false-nine position is popular in football today, but here he looked isolated while his supreme talent was wasted.
16m – Abdulrahman’s first contribution of note is to get in the way of a fierce Thiago Carleto free-kick.
21m – Receives the ball and a neat touch takes him away from a defender but another black and yellow shirt clears.
26m – Another neat bit of skill on the touchline sees him skip away from a marker and bend a pass into midfield for a team-mate.
33m – Hilal should really be ahead and it was Amoory who sparked it. A quite audacious outside of the foot pass sets Al Dawsari racing away, Ittihad stopper Al Qarni is out to thwart him. Hilal try to rescue the situation but Abdullah Otayf’s final effort is fired high and wide.
38m – Tries to set up a chance but his ball into the box is a little aimless and Ittihad clear easily.
58m – Impish backheel looks simple but a classy touch helps to sustain Hilal attack.
61m – Amoory plays a part in Hilal’s killer second, tenaciously winning the ball back as Ittihad dally in clearing. The ball squeezes through to Eduardo who frees Rivas and he rounds the keeper calmly before slotting home.
75m – The playmaker is subbed off, to a rapturous reception
A far from spectacular outing at Loftus Road, but there’s no doubt that Amoory will soon settle into his new (old) home of Riyadh. He showed glimpses of his mercurial talent here and while he can and will play a lot better, superior team-mates in new surroundings should allow him to effect more influence on the bigger stage of Asia.
The UAE are on the precipice of qualifying for the 2018 Asian Games knockout stages – but a daunting task awaits against Group C juggernauts China in Soreang on Sunday.
Maciej Skorza’s Under-23 side opened the Games with a meek 1-0 defeat at the hands of Syria on Tuesday, but a morale-boosting 4-1 thrashing of East-Timor on Thursday earned them their first win, meaning they are currently going through as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Their current goal difference of +2 puts them second behind tournament co-hosts Indonesia.
That could all change following the final group games but the Junior Whites will head into Sunday’s clash at the 27,000 capacity Stadion Si Jalak Harupat at least buoyed by their easy win on Thursday.
Ittihad Kalba midfielder Shaheen Surour opened the scoring in just the second minute and the UAE were well on their way to a maiden victory of the tournament after 10 minutes when 25-year-old Al Wahda centre-back Salem Sultan nodded in Jassem Yaqoub’s corner.
Yaqoub, 21, the talented Al Nasr forward, then laid on a third for Al Jazira youngster Zayed Al Ameri to make it 3-0 after just 19 minutes. Mesmerising footwork from the Blue Wave man left his marker chasing shadows and he centred for Jazira youngster Al Ameri, also 21, who rifled home.
The rising Pride of Abu Dhabi talent then made it 4-0 just beyond the hour mark as he profited from a defensive mix-up to prod home.
Timor-Leste grabbed a consolation three minutes from the end when Rufino netted following a counter-attack.
China dismantled Timor-Leste in their opening game 6-0 – Gao Zhunyi netting a brace – before beating Syria 3-0 on Thursday.
He ain’t no fortunate Son
Son Heung-min‘s hopes of avoiding military service by securing Asian Games gold suffered a blow Friday as South Korea were stunned 2-1 by minnows Malaysia.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward came off the bench just before the hour-mark but couldn’t help the defending champions overturn a two-goal deficit, after Safawi Rasid’s first-half double for 171st-ranked Malaysia.
Son is skipping Premier League action for the regional Olympics, where victory would mean an exemption from South Korea’s mandatory 21 months of military service.
Son, 26, was released by Spurs for the tournament, which represents his final chance to avoid nearly two years in military barracks – a serious setback to his career.
South Korea, who thrashed Bahrain 6-0 in their opening match, dominated possession in the second half, particularly after Son’s introduction, but were unable to claw their way back.
Japan-based striker Hwang Ui-jo, who is also facing his final chance to avoid military service, pulled one goal back for the Koreans late on.
And Son had a golden chance to equalise with a free-kick just outside the box in the last minute, but he placed it inches wide of the post.
Malaysia, 114 places lower than their opponents in the FIFA rankings, were happy to sit deep and play on the break, and frustrated the South Koreans further with frequent stoppages.
Malaysia’s Rasid opened the scoring after just five minutes and he cannoned his second in off the post in first-half injury time.
However, the Taegeuk Warriors’ hopes remain very much alive as they now require a draw against Kyrgyzstan in their final group clash to reach the knockout stages.