FA narrow shortlist to two in search for new UAE manager

Zlatko Dalic, Cosmin Olaroiu and Zoran Mamic are not in the frame

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 05 JANUARY 2020. Practise of the UAE National Footbal team at the UAE Football Association HQ in Al Khawaneej. Coach Ivan Jovanovic. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: John McAuley. Section: Sport.
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The Football Association has settled on two candidates in its search for the next UAE manager, at the same time ruling out a number of high-profile names, including Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic.

A succession of managers has been linked with the role since the FA decided last month to dismiss Ivan Jovanovic, with former Al Ain coach Dalic featuring prominently.

However, speaking to Al Ittihad newspaper in an interview aired late on Wednesday, the FA ruled out a move for Dalic and fellow former Al Ain managers Cosmin Olaroiu and Zoran Mamic. A deal for Dalic always seemed highly unlikely, given the 2018 World Cup finalist is expected to lead Croatia at next summer's postponed Euro 2021.

Yousef Al Sahlawi, second vice-president of the FA and head of the national-team committee whose remit is to identify Jovanovic’s successor, also denied the FA had considered Emiratis Mahdi Ali and Abdulaziz Al Anbari, the former national team manager and current Sharjah head coach, respectively.

Al Sahlawi insisted the focus remains on hiring a foreign manager with experience of either UAE football or football in the region. However, should the rescheduled World Cup qualifiers, postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, not take place later this year as anticipated and be delayed further, the FA will broaden their scope.

Juan Antonio Pizzi, who led Saudi Arabia at the last World Cup, and Rodolfo Arruabarrena, the former Al Wasl and Shabab Al Ahli manager, have also been linked.

At present, the FA is seeking a long-term appointment with two main objectives: guiding the UAE through qualification for Qatar 2022 and putting in place foundations for a successful bid to make the 2026 World Cup.

The UAE sit fourth in their group in the second round of qualification for Qatar, five points off the summit, although they have played a game less than their rivals. They still have to face Malaysia, Thailand and group leaders Vietnam at home, and Indonesia away.

Only the top team are guaranteed to progress to the third round of qualification, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight groups. The final four fixtures were initially slated for March and June.

Jovanovic, who had previously managed Dubai's Al Nasr, was tasked with masterminding the UAE’s progression to the third phase of qualification, signing a six-month contract in December. However, he was relieved of his duties before taking charge of a match.