Former Netherlands and Saudi Arabia head coach Bert van Marwijk has been confirmed as the new UAE manager.
The Dutchman, 66, has agreed to a deal that in theory could take him through to the 2023 Asian Cup, with qualification for the 2022 World Cup the primary target at present.
Having travelled to Dubai on Wednesday to finalise his contract, Van Marwjik will be presented to the media on Thursday in Abu Dhabi shortly before the friendly against Saudi Arabia. He will be in the stands for the match and for next Tuesday’s match against Syria. Saleem Abdelrahman will remain in temporary charge for those fixtures.
In accepting the job, Van Marwjik succeeds Alberto Zaccheroni, who left his post in late January immediately following the UAE's exit, as hosts, at the semi-final stage of the Asian Cup.
Van Marwjik was always the Football Association’s No 1 choice given his track record with Saudi Arabia. Appointed in August 2015, he masterminded the Gulf country’s qualification for last summer’s World Cup – their first appearance at a global finals in 12 years. However, he was relieved of his duties almost immediately after their place in Russia was secured.
Van Marwijk did go on to manage at the tournament, though, taking charge of Australia on a short-term contract, although the then-Asian champions failed to make it out of their group.
Since then, he has been acting as advisor to former assistant Mark van Bommel at PSV Eindhoven. The former Feyenoord, Borussia Dortmund and Hamburg manager's greatest achievement to date is leading the Netherlands to a runner-up finish at the 2010 World Cup.
With the UAE, Van Marwijk will be principally charged with ensuring the national team reach the next World Cup, in what would be only their second appearance at football’s marquee event.
Van Marwjik’s strong personality, work ethic and emphasis on discipline were apparent during his two years with Saudi Arabia and subsequently were decisive factors in convincing the FA he was the right man for the job. He will be tasked with refreshing a national team who disappointed at the Asian Cup despite reaching the last four. Discovering new talent forms part of his remit.
The FA had previously approached Van Marwijk before opting for Zaccheroni in October 2017. He knows the UAE well already having come up against the national team during the final round of qualification for last year’s World Cup.
The Saudis defeated their regional rivals 3-0 in Jeddah in October 2016 before losing the corresponding fixture 2-1 in Al Ain 10 months later. A 1-0 victory at home to Japan in their final qualifier secured the spot in Russia.
Van Marwijk was replaced within a matter of weeks by Edgardo Bauza, who had been managing the UAE at the time, but the Argentine was soon fired in favour of Juan Antonio Pizzi. Pizzi departed following Saudi Arabia's last-16 exit to Japan at the Asian Cup.
The UAE’s previous appearance at the World Cup was in 1990. Qualification for the next global finals begins in September.