The UAE have been drawn against Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait for next year’s Arabian Gulf Cup in Iraq.
The national team, two-time winners of the tournament, were on Tuesday placed in Group B for the January 6-19 competition in Basra. Hosts Iraq were drawn in Group A alongside Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.
Speaking after the draw in Basra, UAE manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena said: "We respect for all participating teams, since all of them have the desire and ambition to compete for the title, regardless of their history in the tournament or the position they now occupy in the international rankings.
“There is no weak or strong team. Everyone will be in Iraq to compete to qualify from the group stage, then battle for the trophy.
“So we will deal with all matches with the same importance and care to ensure that we reach the maximum return from the tournament.”
Gulf champions in 2007 and 2013, the UAE will begin preparations on December 26 for the 25th edition of the tournament. Before that, Arruabarrena’s side will camp in Abu Dhabi next month, from November 13-19, where they face friendlies against Argentina and Kazakhstan.
UAE team manager Yassem Salem added: "The technical staff will have a good opportunity through the two preparatory experiences against Argentina and Kazakhstan, and we hope that these experiences will contribute to raising the players' readiness and give the coach and his assistants a clear picture of the players’ position.
“We are aware of the importance of the tournament for all the teams in the region. It is a precious tournament dear to everyone, and I hope that we will succeed in providing the best level and achieving the aspirations to make the Emirati fans happy."
The two titles aside, the UAE have finished runners-up four times in the Arabian Gulf Cup, most recently in 2018. Last time out, in Qatar in 2019, they exited the tournament at the group stage.