Rodolfo Arruabarrena ready for 'serious work' with focus on UAE's World Cup 2022 bid

Argentine replaces Bert van Marwijk as national team manager after Dutchman was dismissed for 'not achieving FA's ambitions'

Rodolfo Arruabarrena was unveiled as UAE's new national team manager on Sunday, February 13, 2022. Photo: UAEFA
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New UAE manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena said he is determined to “make history” with the national team after he was confirmed as Bert van Marwijk’s replacement on Sunday.

The Argentine, who previously managed in the Emirates with Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli, was introduced to the media at the Football Association headquarters in Dubai. Arruabarrena has signed a contract through until the conclusion of next year’s Asian Cup in China.

The FA moved quickly to appoint a new manager having dismissed Van Marwijk on Saturday. Arruabarrena takes over the team at a crucial juncture: with two matches remaining in the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup; the UAE sit in the first play-off spot. Next month, they conclude the group campaign against Iraq away and South Korea at home.

Speaking in his native Spanish, Arruabarrena said: “I thank the national team committee and [committee head] Humid al Tayer especially for the possibility to manage the national team. I am ready for this challenge to make history and achieve the goals of the Football Association.

“You know already that I don't like to talk a lot, but to work a lot, with serious work. I am expecting my technical staff to be here soon to start working as soon as possible - to achieve the best performance as quickly as possible.

“We want to take the chance that we have to qualify and make best use of the current situation of the team. Everything is possible in football.”

Arruabarrena, 46, joined Al Wasl in 2016 and went on to lead the Dubai club to second- and third-place finishes in the UAE top flight - the club's best performances in a decade. Wasl also reached the finals of the 2017/18 President’s Cup and League Cup, only to lose both.

Arruabarrena took the reins at Shabab Al Ahli in October 2018 following a brief spell in Qatar and went on to capture the League Cup and President’s Cup in his first season, while also finishing runner-up in the league. He was dismissed the following season despite Shabab Al Ahli sitting top of the table.

Arruabarrena's most recent job was with FC Pyramids in Egypt. He was dismissed in June last year, seven months into his contract.

"I consider this as a challenge and I trust my technical staff and the players we have," he said. “You all know that I worked in the UAE for almost 5 years. I am still in contact with some players and they are still representing the national team.

"I have an idea of what I can do with the team from what I watched. My evaluation of the team is something I want to keep for myself.”

Al Tayer, meanwhile, thanked Van Marwijk for his time with the UAE – the Dutchman’s tenure extended to two separate stints – but added: “The previous committee recommended to sack Van Marwijk [following the Fifa Arab Cup exit in December], but there were three weeks until the next match in World Cup qualification.

“We were very narrow with our choices, so decided to keep the coach for the three weeks and work at the same time on finding a better coach. And, as a committee, we believe that this is the right choice.

“We gave Van Marwijk his chance and he didn't achieve our ambitions.”

On the targets set for Arruabarrena, Al Tayer said: “We are in a development phase, where we want to still give the chance to the young players - and we know that Rodolfo is very special and strong in developing youth.

“We want to reach the final play-off in World Cup qualification, which is against the South American team and might be played in Qatar.

“The [Arabian] Gulf Cup - we are used to having the UAE as finalists and we don't want anything less than that in any championship. We want to prepare the team for the 2023 Asian Cup.”

Updated: February 13, 2022, 5:48 PM