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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 January 2021

UAE FA: No contact with any coaches yet about replacing Ivan Jovanovic

Zlatko Dalic, Zoran Mamic and Juan Antonio Pizzi all linked with vacant post in recent days

Juan Antonio Pizzi has been out of work since his contract with the Saudi Arabia national team expired at the end of the 2019 Asian Cup. Reuters
Juan Antonio Pizzi has been out of work since his contract with the Saudi Arabia national team expired at the end of the 2019 Asian Cup. Reuters

The Football Association has denied it has made contact with prospective managers regarding the UAE national team job, after a number of names were linked with the post.

Reports the past few days claimed the FA had ramped up their search for a successor to Ivan Jovanovic, who was dismissed last week without having managed a match. Chief among those linked were Zlatko Dalic, Zoran Mamic and Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Sources close to Pizzi told The National that the former Saudi Arabia manager had been approached about succeeding Jovanovic, although the FA say that is not the case. Meanwhile, Mamic, the former Al Ain manager now working as sporting director at Dinamo Zagreb, is understood to hold significant appeal.

However, Yousef Al Sahlawi, second vice-president of the FA and head of the national-team committee whose remit is to identify the new manager, told The National on Wednesday: “We didn’t contact any coaches. Until today, we didn’t even discuss any names. We are waiting for more CVs, searching with different agents. So until now we didn’t decide. It’s under process.”

Asked when he hoped to have the next manager in place, Al Sahlawi said: “We want to finish this issue as soon as possible. We’ll be having a meeting very soon to at least discuss the names we have.”

Al Sahlawi said the FA has two objectives when determining the new manager: guiding the UAE through the next stage of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, and building a team towards the 2026 tournament.

There is a preference for candidates who have experience of UAE football or at least the region, especially given the four remaining fixtures in the second round of qualification, postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, are expected to take place from October. Al Sahlawi did add, though, that knowledge of Gulf football was not mandatory.

Pizzi, 51, would fall into the first category given he managed Saudi Arabia for 14 months until last year’s Asian Cup. Currently in his native Argentina, he is interested in the opportunity to return to the region.

Pizzi’s tenure with the Saudis included the 2018 World Cup, where he led the national team to a first win at the tournament in 24 years. Secured in their final group game against Egypt, it did not prevent them from exiting at that stage.

Pizzi’s contract ran until the conclusion of the Asian Cup, which took place in the UAE six months later. The Saudis were defeated 1-0 in the last 16 by Japan, the eventual runners-up. Pizzi also managed Chile to the 2016 Copa America title.

Dalic remains hugely popular in the UAE having managed Al Ain with success for three years from 2014. The current Croatia manager, he took his country to a first World Cup final two years ago.

Dalic’s contract with his national team was set to expire following Euro 2020, which has been postponed until next summer.

The UAE sit fourth in their group in World Cup qualification, 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.

Published: April 15, 2020 07:11 PM

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