UAE FOOTBALL TEAM’S BUSY YEAR KICKS OFF WITH ARMENIA FRIENDLY
The National, UAE
May 26 2014
Nine friendlies for Mahdi Ali’s men, first of which starts on
Wednesday, writes Amith Passela.
Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, would be looking to extend his side’s
unbeaten run to 21 matches when they face Armenia on Tuesday night
in Geneva, Switzerland.
It will be the UAE’s first game in nearly three months since the 1-1
away draw against Uzbekistan in the final group stage match in the
Asian Cup qualifiers on March 5.
The game against Armenia is the first of two friendlies during the
team’s camp in Switzerland, which began on May 20. They also play
Georgia on June 3.
“The camp in Switzerland is a refreshing one and has given the players
the energy and motivation to regroup after a long and tough domestic
season,” Mohanad Salem, the Al Ain centre-back, said.
“The FA has made us feel comfortable and relaxed.
“The camp has provided the players an excellent opportunity to focus on
the national team’s upcoming assignments. “This game against Armenia
is an important one for us. As always, we want to win this game by
implementing the tactics and strategies of the coach to continue our
positive run and build on this for the future challenges.”
Mahdi Ali has included two debutants in his 24-man squad: 18-year-old
Al Jazira forward Ahmed Al Ghilani and midfielder Ali Salmeen, 19,
of Al Wasl.
Armenia arrived in Geneva on Saturday and will also play Algeria in
Sion on May 31 and Germany in Mainz on June 6.
Armenia are also preparing for their 2016 European Championship
qualifying campaign where they are in Group I alongside Portugal,
Denmark, Serbia and Albania.
Ranked 33 in the world, they pose a serious threat to the UAE’s
unbeaten run, having held Italy to a 2-2 draw in Naples in their last
The UAE’s camp in Switzerland is the first step of their preparation
for their title defence of the Gulf Cup in Saudi Arabia from November
13 to 26 and then their Asian Cup campaign, which starts on January
9 in Australia.
The UAE have nine friendlies lined up in total before then, including
Norway on August 27, Belgium on September 4, and Morocco four days
later in the second phase of their camp.
In the third stage of their preparation, they will play Australia on
October 10 and Uzbekistan on October 14 and two friendlies in Saudi
Arabia on November 4 and 7 against teams still to be named.
They travel to Australia and play Jordon on December 31 and Kuwait
on January 4 ahead of the Asian Cup in which they are drawn in Group
C alongside Iran, Qatar and Bahrain.
Goalkeepers: Ali Kasheif (Al Jazira), Ahmed Mahmoud (Al Ahli), Khalid
Eisa (Al Ain). Defence: Walid Abbas (Ahli), Mohammed Ahmed, Muhanad
Salem, Ismail Ahmed (Al Ain), Hamdan Al Kamali, Eisa Ahmed (Al Wahda).
Midfield: Abdulaziz Haikal, Majed Hassan (Ahli), Mohammed Fawzi
(Baniyas), Khamis Ismail (Jazira), Omar Abdulrahman, Mohammed
Abdulrahman (Al Ain), Ali Salmeen (Al Wasl), Habib Fardan, Mahmoud
Khamis (Al Nasr). Forwards: Ahmed Khalil, Ismail Al Hammadi (Ahli),
Ahmed Al Ghilani, Ali Mabkhout (Jazira), Salem Saleh (Wahda), Yousuf
FIVE FACTS ABOUT ARMENIA
* The team played their first international in 1992, after the break
up of the Soviet Union, drawing 0-0 at home to Moldova.
* They have never qualified for a major tournament though they were
in contention to finish second in Group B of European qualifying for
Brazil 2014 all the way until the final game, eventually finishing
fifth with 13 points from 10 games.
* Their 4-0 away win in Denmark in June 2013 equalled their record
* Henrikh Mkhitaryan is their star player. The attacking midfielder,
25, signed for Borussia Dortmund from Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk for
EURO 25 million (Dh125.3m). He has 44 caps and 12 goals.
* The team are 33rd in Fifa’s world rankings ahead of the likes of
Ghana, Japan, Nigeria and Australia, all of whom are heading to the