New UAE manager Paulo Bento puts squad through paces as 2026 World Cup preparations begin

Former South Korea manager appointed earlier this month on three-year contract

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The UAE national team have begun life with manager Paulo Bento, as they kicked off preparations for 2026 World Cup qualification with a training camp in Austria.

Bento, appointed earlier this month on a three-year contract, travelled with his new team on Saturday for a 13-day get-together before the 2023/24 Adnoc Pro League gets under way on August 18.

The Portuguese coach, 54, guided South Korea to the knockout stages of last year’s World Cup, and has been handed a remit of masterminding what would represent only the UAE’s second qualification for a World Cup. The second round of qualifiers, where the UAE enter, begins in November.

Previously managed by Argentine Rodolfo Arruabarrena, the national team were last week drawn in Group H alongside Bahrain and either Yemen or Sri Lanka, and Nepal or Laos. Those sides must first come through a play-off in October.

The UAE will host Nepal or Laos on Matchday 1 on November 16 before taking on Bahrain in Manama five days later.

The 2026 World Cup has been expanded to 48 teams. The UAE have only once previously reached a global finals, in 1990.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 1:32 PM