2015 Asian Cup third-place side United Arab Emirates have received a boost to their upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign after signing head coach Mahdi Ali to a three-year extension to his current contract.
With the 49-year-old’s previous deal due to expire in July of this year, his decision to stay will provide clarity for players and fans alike as the build-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia continues.
The White’s coach, who has been at the helm since 2012 after several years in the national team youth system, guided the UAE to the Asian Cup 2015 semi-finals in Australia, before losing to the hosts and later clinching third place with a 3-2 victory over Iraq.
Ahead of their World Cup qualifiers in June, the former Al-Ahli player and coach talked of the nation’s confidence. “We played three games against teams who qualified for the World Cup in Japan, Iran and Australia. We played well in these three games and there was no big gap between the teams.
“This gives us the confidence to qualify for the next World Cup. We have to work hard and plan better than before as it will be hard with the new draw system where you have a group of eight.
“It’s a good chance for us to qualify for Russia as we have a good generation.”
UAE will enter the second round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Asia, to be drawn on April 11, which will also double as the path towards the 2019 Asian Cup.