The UAE squad travelled to Serbia on Saturday for a short training camp to prepare for the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, although they did so without forward Fabio De Lima.
The national team, who advanced to the third phase in June as winners of their second-round group, met in Dubai on Friday before flying to Serbia for the get-together until August 13. Qualification commences on September 2. The UAE are placed in Group A alongside South Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
However, there were multiple changes to Bert van Marwijk’s initial squad for the camp, with De Lima and Al Wasl teammate Ali Salmeen ruled out on Saturday morning through injury. The Brazilian-born De Lima has proved a huge hit since making his competitive debut for the UAE in June, scoring five goals in four qualifiers. Salmeen, meanwhile, is a regular starter in midfield.
On Friday, the Football Association announced that Khalfan Mubarak, Yousef Jaber, Mohammed Al Attas and Mohammed Juma Eid had all withdrawn through illness or fitness issues, with Yahya Al Ghassani, Hassan Saleh and Zayed Al Ameri called up in their place. The UAE are not scheduled to play any friendlies while in Europe.
Van Marwijk’s side begin their Group A campaign with a double-header next month against Lebanon, in Dubai on September 2, and against Syria, in Jordan, five days later. They then take on Iran and Iraq in October, both at home, before travelling to South Korea and Lebanon the following month. The third round concludes next March.
Only the top two teams in each of the two groups will seal an automatic spot at Qatar 2022, with the two third-placed sides then facing off to go into the intercontinental play-off. The UAE have only once previously competed in a World Cup, in 1990.