UAE manager Edgardo Bauza has left for Europe to run the rule over potential call ups for the team’s upcoming World Cup double-header against Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The Argentine, whose reign got off to a disappointing start in June with a 1-1 draw in Thailand, will visit three training camps during the next week: UAE champions Al Jazira, the newly formed Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Al Nasr. Jazira and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club are both in the Netherlands, while Nasr have been based in Hungary since last month.
The UAE round out their Group B campaign against Saudi Arabia at home on August 29 and against Iraq one week later in Iran. Fourth in the standings and six points off a play-off spot with two matches remaining, they hold only a slim chance of qualifying for next summer's World Cup. To make Russia, they must win both fixtures and hope for other results to go in their favour, together with a huge swing in goal difference.
Highlights from UAE's draw against Thailand
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Bauza’s trip to Europe will focus on the twin qualifiers, but the former Argentina national team manager will also have in mind this December’s Gulf Cup of Nations and the 2019 Asian Cup, which takes place in the Emirates. During his stay in Europe, Bauza will watch Jazira, Nasr and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club each contest friendlies, with the latter facing Dutch side PSV Eindhoven on Friday.
Bauza, appointed in May after signing a contract through to the Asian Cup, is expected to promote a number of the side who featured for the Under 23s team in last month’s 2018 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers. Although the UAE failed to progress to January's tournament in China, striker Ahmed Al Attas was one of the players to excel. The Jazira forward, who has already featured for the senior team, scored three times in three matches. The UAE squad will be announced following Bauza's visit.
With the Arabian Gulf League's club out of the country preparing for the 2017/18 season, the majority of the group will not meet up until August 18 in Al Ain. However, the Al Ain players will not join the squad until after the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final with Al Hilal. That match takes place at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on August 21 – eight days before the crucial World Cup qualifier with Saudi Arabia at the same venue. The Saudis are placed second in Group B.
The UAE then travel to Tehran to conclude the campaign against fifth-placed Iraq at the PAS Stadium on September 5.