UAE manager Bert van Marwijk has chosen an expanded squad for his side’s 2022 World Cup qualifying double-header next month.
The national team host Iran and Iraq in Dubai during a five-day spell from October 7 as they look to get their final-round campaign back on track following a disappointing opening set of fixtures this month.
With only the top two teams guaranteed to progress from Group A, the UAE drew at home to Lebanon and then again away to Syria. As such, they sit third in the standings, two points off South Korea in second. Iran top the group with two wins from two.
On Monday, the UAE confirmed an initial, 31-man squad for next month’s matches, with Caio Canedo a notable absentee. The Brazil-born forward has been recovering from injury and has only recently returned to training with club side Al Ain.
Van Marwijk has included a number of fresh faces for this camp, comprising Shabab Al Ahli full-back Abdulaziz Haikal, Al Wahda counterpart Ahmed Rashid and midfielders Majed Rashid and Mohammed Abbas, of Sharjah and Al Ain respectively. Shabab Al Ahli defender Yousef Jaber returns after a minor injury forced him to withdraw from this month’s qualifiers.
Missing a couple of pivotal players for those games, the UAE went on to draw 0-0 with Lebanon at the Zabeel Stadium before letting slip a 1-0 lead to be held 1-1 by Syria in Amman.
Iran, meanwhile, emphasised their position as the highest-ranked team in Asia with a 1-0 victory at home to Syria and then a 3-0 win against Iraq in Qatar. Iraq opened their account with an excellent goalless draw against South Korea in Seoul.
Although the top two sides seal a direct spot at next year’s World Cup, the third-placed team in each of the two groups then meet one another to advance to an intercontinental play-off, where a final berth at the global finals is up for grabs. At present, Australia and Saudi Arabia lie first and second in Group B – both have gleaned six points from six – while Oman are third, level on points with Japan.