Bert van Marwijk returns as UAE manager with World Cup qualifiers on the horizon

Dutch coach back in the role a year after departing

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 07, 2019: The UAE head coach Bert van Marwijk. The UAE football team trains before their upcoming fixture Indonesia. Monday the 7th of October 2019. Al Wasl Sports Club, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Bert van Marwijk has agreed to return to manage the UAE national team, little more than one year after he left the role.

The Football Association announced on Monday that the Dutchman, who spent nine months in the position until last December, would succeed Jorge Luis Pinto, after the Colombian parted company on November 30. He had been in charge for only five months.

The deal for Marwijk, believed to be for two years, is expected to be finalised once he arrives in Dubai later this week.

Van Marwijk’s reappointment marks the conclusion of a remarkable year for the national team, beginning with the former Netherlands and Saudi Arabia manager’s dismissal following the UAE’s group-stage exit at the Gulf Cup of Nations. Since then, the FA appointed Ivan Jovanovic, the former Al Nasr manager, and Pinto, although neither took charge of a competitive match.

Appointed in April and charged with guiding the national team to the 2022 World Cup, Van Marwijk had overseen four qualifiers in the second stage, with a return of two victories and two defeats. Qualification, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, resumes in March. The UAE sit fourth in Group G, five points off leaders Vietnam, but have played one game less than their rivals.

Van Marwijk’s second tenure will begin competitively with the March double-header against Malaysia at home and Indonesia away, before another two matches in June, at home to Thailand and Vietnam. Only the top team qualifies automatically for the third and final round, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight groups.

Van Marwijk, 68, has enjoyed success internationally both in Europe and in the Gulf. In 2010, he led the Netherlands to the World Cup final - his greatest coaching achievement to date - where his side lost 1-0 to Spain, while he masterminded Saudi Arabia’s progression to the 2018 World Cup. It represented the country's first global finals in 12 years. Van Marwijk was dismissed before the tournament, though, yet still went on to mange Australia in Russia. However, they did not qualify from the group.

During his first stint with the UAE, Van Marwijk was credited with providing playing opportunities for a number of young players, including Al Jazira defender Khalifa Al Hammadi, club teammate Abdullah Ramadan and Al Wasl’s Ali Saleh.

Since his departure, the UAE have added three naturalised players to the squad: Brazil-born Caio Canedo and Fabio De Lima, and Argentine-born Sebastian Tagliabue. All three have already debuted for the national team.

Speaking to The National in June, Van Marwijk's assistant coach, Roel Coumans, said the Dutch manager was open to reprising the role, saying he felt the team to be "on the right track". Coumans added that the coaching staff believed strongly in their ability to turn around the UAE's qualifying campaign.

The squad are expected to meet for a camp next month, perhaps even partake in a friendly tournament, as preparation ramps up for the March qualifiers. The national team played three official friendlies in the past couple of months, losing twice and winning the other.

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