Omar Abdulrahman returns to UAE squad ahead of vital World Cup play-off against Australia

The 2016 Asian player of year has not featured for the national team since November 2019

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Omar Abdulrahman has been included in the UAE squad for their upcoming training camp as preparations ramp up for next month's World Cup play-off against Australia.

The Shabab Al Ahli playmaker, who last featured for the national team in November 2019, was among the 30-man group named on Monday by manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena.

Seeking to reach only a second global finals in the country’s history, the UAE begin their domestic training camp on Tuesday, ahead of what they hope will be the first of two matches to book a spot at Qatar 2022.

Arruabarrena’s side take on Australia on June 7 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan just outside Doha. Should they come through that, will then face Peru six days later for a place at the World Cup. The UAE play Gambia in a friendly in Dubai on Sunday before travelling to Doha the following day.

The squad announced on Monday contained a number of fresh call-ups, including Baniyas centre-back Khaled Hashemi and Sharjah full-back Khaled Al Dhanhani, with club teammate Alhasan Saleh, Al Ain midfielder Yahya Nader and Shabab Al Ahli counterpart Abdullah Al Naqbi also featuring.

However, Abdulrahman’s return to the national team set-up represents the most notable inclusion. The midfielder, the 2016 Asian player of the year, had spent the majority of the season on the sidelines through injury until last month – up to that point, he had played only twice in the 2021/22 Adnoc Pro League – but was in inspired form in the Asian Champions League group stages. Abdulrahman, 30, had not played competitively since early January.

Speaking last month regarding a potential international call-up, the former Al Ain and Al Hilal star said: “With no doubt, even if I'm not ready. Being 50 per cent ready means you're ready. However, I am 100 per cent ready because it is everybody's dream, it is the dream of UAE.

“I hope everyone stands together, not only the players, the technical staff and the administration team, but also the media, fans, and everyone during this time - because the two remaining matches can lead us to the World Cup finals.

“Of course, the first play-off against Australia will be difficult for sure, but with solidarity, we will be able to make the UAE fans happy.”

The UAE have qualified for a World Cup once before, in 1990. Arruabarrena, the former Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli manager, was appointed in February as replacement for Bert van Marwijk, helping guide the UAE through the final two matches in the third round of qualification.

A 1-0 victory in the second of those, against Group A leaders South Korea in Dubai, secured third place in the standings and the team’s place in the play-offs.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 10:32 AM