UAE appoint 'ambitious' Paulo Bento as national team manager

Portuguese, 54, replaces Rodolfo Arruabarrena ahead of World Cup qualifying campaign and 2023 Asian Cup

New UAE coach Paulo Bento at his official press conference in Dubai on July 10, 2023. Photo: UAE FA.
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Paulo Bento has been confirmed as the new manager of the UAE national team.

The Portuguese, 54, was introduced as Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s successor to the media on Sunday evening in Dubai having signed a three-year contract with the Football Association.

Bento had been without a job since stepping down as South Korea’s head coach in December following their elimination from the 2022 World Cup at the last-16 stage to Brazil. It represented South Korea’s first appearance in the tournament’s knockout stages in 12 years.

Bento had been in charge since August 2018, guiding his team to success in the 2019 East Asian Football Federation E-1 Championship, and then through qualification for a 10th successive World Cup appearance. South Korea did lose their final qualifying match to the UAE, in March last year.

Bento, who began his managerial career in 2005 with Sporting CF before being appointed Portugal national team manager five years later, replaces in his new role Arruabarrena, whose contract through to the 2023 Asian Cup was not extended after the tournament was postponed until next January.

The UAE, semi-finalists in the past two editions, have been drawn in Group C for the January 12-February 10 tournament in Qatar, alongside Iran, Hong Kong and Palestine. Meanwhile, qualification for the expanded 2026 World Cup begins in November, with the UAE aiming to qualify for a global finals for only the second time. Their previous appearance was in 1990.

Speaking at the FA headquarters on Sunday evening, Bento said: “We are looking forward to start working to try to reach our goals. We know that it will be a long process where we would like to reach stability for the team, [and] for the federation.

"But we want to be ambitious, of course; this is our goal. We know that we have a competition in January, then the World Cup in 2026. In the meantime, we have some periods to prepare the team for the first competition in January and then we will try to do our best, try to bring our experience. We already have some information about the team; we already observed the team as well.

"Now we start from the demands, the wish and the desire to make things as good as possible and try to achieve the goals altogether, building a good structure, a good team, and try to play as well as possible to reach our goals.”

Updated: July 10, 2023, 6:38 AM