UAE gather in Dubai to begin preparations for crucial World Cup qualifiers double-header

National team, third in their group, face Syria on January 27 and Iran five days later

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The UAE have begun their training camp ahead of the upcoming World Cup double-header against Syria and Iran.

The national team, currently third in Group A in the final round of qualification for Qatar 2022, gathered in Dubai on Tuesday. Bert van Marwijk’s side take on Syria at Al Maktoum Stadium on January 27 before travelling to Iran to face the group leaders on February 1. With four matches remaining, the UAE sit eight points off the automatic qualification spots.

The 27-man squad for the qualifiers is missing a number of key absentees, especially in attack, with all-time leading goalscorer Ali Mabkhout unavailable and forward Fabio De Lima suffering a serious injury at the weekend while playing for Al Wasl.

Striker Sebastian Tagliabue is part of the squad, with the hope the Al Nasr frontman will be fully fit in time for the crucial match against Syria. Syria are currently bottom of the group, four points worse off than the UAE.

After six qualifiers, the UAE are eight points behind second-placed South Korea and 10 from Iran. Third spot remains the most likely route to Qatar, with the third-placed sides in each of the two Asian qualification groups meeting to decide who progresses to the play-off. The play-offs are expected to take place in May and June.

After Syria and Iran, the UAE round off the group in March, with a trip to Iraq before meeting South Korea at home. The UAE has only once previously qualified for a World Cup, in 1990.

Updated: January 19, 2022, 7:25 AM