The UAE have arrived in Doha ahead of next week’s must-win World Cup play-off against Australia.
The national team, attempting to become only the second Emirati side to qualify for a global finals, will ramp up preparations for the June 7 clash at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium after touching down in the Qatar capital late on Monday.
The travelling UAE squad comprised 29 players, with injured Shabab Al Ahli midfielder Abdullah Al Naqbi omitted from the group that participated in a domestic training camp last week in Dubai. The national team are expected to undergo a light training session in Doha on Tuesday.
Should the UAE get past Australia next week, they will then face Peru for a place at the World Cup. That match, on June 13, will also be held at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
The UAE warmed up for what they hope will be two matches in Qatar with a 1-1 draw in a friendly against Gambia on Sunday night. All-time leading scorer Ali Mabkhout gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot shortly before half-time, while Gambia equalised three minutes into the second half through Moussa Barrow.
Rodolfo Arruabarrena, appointed as UAE manager in February following the dismissal of Bert van Marwijk, used 24 players in all at Zabeel Stadium, including returning playmaker Omar Abdulrahman. The 2016 Asian player of the year, hampered by injury for much the past year, was making his first appearance for the national team since November 2019.
Speaking on Sunday following the Gambia game, team manager Yasser Salem said: “The friendly was very useful for our team, as it came against a respectable, experienced side that presents excellent levels.
“We achieved many positives from the friendly, both technically and tactically, and coach Rodolfo could assess the players' readiness. The preparation plan developed by Rodolfo is going well... and I hope that all the players are fully prepared to face Australia.
“Our coaching staff has all the details related to the Australian national team."
Meanwhile, Australia will meet Jordan in a friendly in Doha on Wednesday as they ready for the UAE play-off. The 2015 Asian champions, bidding to reach a fifth successive World Cup and sixth overall, have been based in Qatar since last week.
The UAE have only once previously participated in football’s showpiece event, in 1990. Last week, the Football Association announced it would provide 5,000 match tickets for UAE supporters to attend the Australia match.