Al Wahda line up Ivankovic to replace Hickersberger

Former Iran coach heading to Abu Dhabi for talks with Pro League side.

Branko Ivankovic  is heading to Abu Dhabi.
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Branko Ivankovic, the former Iran coach who was dismissed by the Saudi club Al Ettifaq on Monday, is headed to Abu Dhabi for talks with Al Wahda.

Wahda are looking for a replacement for Josef Hickersberger, the Austrian who has led the team for most of four seasons, including the championship 2009/10 campaign.

Ivankovic worked in Iran for five years and led them to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

He joined Ettifaq last year after a two-year spell at China's Shandong Luneng, helping the club win the Chinese Super League and book a place in 2011 Asian Champions League.

Ivankovic was dismissed following the 2-1 defeat to Al Fateh in the first leg of the Saudi King's Cup on Saturday. The 58-year-old Croatian had taken Ettifaq to fourth place in the Saudi Premier League and to the knockout stage of the AFC Cup in Group C.

Wahda have been largely inactive this season. They chose not to have a pre-season camp abroad and did not bring any new players to the squad, aside from the Oman defender Mohammed Shaibah, taken on loan from Al Wasl.

Wahda shipped off several veterans to other UAE clubs, including Abdulrahim Jumaa (Al Jazira), Fahed Masoud (Wasl), Basheer Saeed (Al Ahli) and Hassan Amin (Al Nasr). Also, they released Hamdan Al Kamali, the UAE Olympic team captain, to Lyon, the French Ligue 1 club, on a six-month loan.

Hickersberger, who is leading the team against Al Arabi of Kuwait in tonight's Gulf Club Championship, has said he did not expect to return, saying "the coach is the one to be blamed" for poor results.

Wahda are sixth in the league with three matches remaining. They won the Super Cup, in September, and reached the semi-finals of the President's Cup.

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& Amith Passela