UAE FA identify five candidates to succeed Alberto Zaccheroni as manager

European-based coaches targeted as focus turns towards trying to qualify for World Cup 2022

epa07329590 Alberto Zaccheroni head coach of UAE staands during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semifinal round match between Qatar and UAE in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 29 January 2019.  EPA/ALI HAIDER

The Football Association could decide on a new manager of the UAE national team within the next week, with five possible candidates having been identified.

The governing body are seeking a successor to Alberto Zaccheroni following the conclusion to the Italian’s contract upon the team’s exit from the Asian Cup at the semi-final stage in late January. Zaccheroni, 65, had been in charge for 15 months.

Five potential replacements are being assessed, with the FA hoping to decide on the best man for the job later this week. From there, negotiations will take place so that the new manager can be in position before the end of the month.

The UAE are expected to play two friendlies later this month, against Saudi Arabia on March 21 and Syria five days later. Caretaker manager Saleem Abdelrahman, part of Zaccheroni’s staff for the Asian Cup, will remain in situ for those two matches irrespective if the deal for a permanent successor has been completed.

The FA have decided to focus on Europe-based coaches, and have set a number of criteria to be met. Those include, the FA told The National, managers with significant experience and a strong personality, who display an emphasis on forging a long-term plan for the future. A strong command of English is also preferred.

The main objective for the UAE is now to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, in what would represent only the country’s second appearance at a global finals and first since 1990. Qualification for the tournament, and the 2023 Asian Cup, begins in September.

For many, the UAE disappointed at this year’s Asian Cup despite reaching the semi-finals. Beset by injuries to key players, including star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, the national team struggled in all three group matches – they did still progress as pool winners - and the last-16 victory against Kryrgzstan.

Their one truly positive performance and result arrived in the 1-0 defeat of holders Australia in the quarter-final, before the hosts exited the tournament on the back of a 4-0 loss to Qatar in the last four.

Appointed in October 2017, Zaccheroni managed the UAE for 24 matches, guiding his team to nine victories, seven draws and eight defeats.

Immediately following the match with Qatar, the 2011 Asian Cup winner with Japan said: “To reach the semi-final wasn’t my expectation because I wanted to win the Asian Cup. For me, it’s not a satisfactory result. I’m very proud to have worked with the UAE team. Our objective from the beginning was to win the Asian Cup but we fell short.”