UAE begin preparations for 2026 World Cup qualifiers

National team open qualifying campaign with double-header against Nepal and Bahrain

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The UAE have begun their final preparations for next week’s kick-off to 2026 World Cup qualification.

The national team, seeking to reach a second global finals in the country’s history, open their campaign for the tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico with a double-header against Nepal and Bahrain.

The UAE host the former, who last month came through a play-off to make the second round of qualification, at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on November 16. They then face Bahrain away five days later. Yemen make up the other side in Group H.

On Monday night, UAE manager Paulo Bento oversaw the opening training session at Al Wasl club, although the squad did not include players from Sharjah and Al Ain. The Adnoc Pro League clubs are competing this week in the Asian Champions League.

Meanwhile, Al Wahda goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi had to leave the UAE camp after medical examinations deemed him not physically ready to participate in the qualifiers.

Bento, who guided South Korea to the knockout stages of last year’s World Cup, was appointed UAE manager in July, succeeding Argentine Rodolfo Arruabarrena.

The national team, who narrowly missed out on Qatar 2022 by losing a play-off to Australia, are aiming to emulate the celebrated side of 1990 in qualifying for a World Cup.

Updated: November 07, 2023, 1:13 PM