UAE coach Mahdi Ali on Tuesday expressed confidence after his side were placed in Group A with Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Timor-Leste, and Malaysia for upcoming World Cup and Asian Cup joint qualifying.
After placing an impressive third in January’s Asian Cup, the pressure is mounting on Al-Abyad (The White) to achieve their first World Cup berth since 1990.
“No matter who our opponents are, we still have to do our best to prepare,” Ali told reporters after the draw was completed in Kuala Lumpur. “Of course I’m keeping an eye on all teams, but I must look to my team first.”
But organisational friction between the national program and the country’s domestic league, which rescheduled from a May 30 climax to a May 10 finish to allow for the President’s Cup to take place later that month, may pose a risk to the squad’s fitness.
“I called for the league to finish on May 30 with the [President’s Cup final] on June 3,” Ali said according to The National. “That way the players will continue to play until that point.
“Imagine a player being out of action for three weeks [if his team is eliminated from the President’s Cup.] I can’t call on just three or four players to run through fitness training, that is unacceptable.
“We are approaching an important time and need everyone’s backing.”
The former midfielder, who has lead the country’s “golden generation” to an AFC U-19 Championship, a silver medal finish in the Asian Games, and a berth in the London Olympics among other accomplishments, stressed the need for a continuation of his successful program.
“We don’t want what happened recently, when we didn’t play in March, to happen again,” Ali said.
“We will discuss [the program] with the league and hopefully there will be no issues.
“There is a good chance of reaching the World Cup.”