UAE players ready to impress

The national football squad plan to impress in their forthcoming friendly matches against Moldova and Algeria ahead of a busy year.

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The UAE's matches against Moldova and Algeria may be classed as friendly games but they will be vital for the players to try to seal their places in the national squad, according to Ismail Rashid, the director of the first team. Srecko Katanec, the manager, has taken a 23-man squad to Austria for the first of five training camps that have been scheduled for this season in the run-up to the Gulf Cup in November and January's Asian Cup. The UAE will play Moldova in Salzburg on Saturday before moving to Germany on Wednesday, where they meet World Cup-bound Algeria in Nuremberg on June 5. According to Rashid, the two matches will be an important pointer for the coach and management to how the team can move forward.

"The result may not really matter, but these games are really important as the coaching staff will learn more about the potential of the players and the extent of their readiness to play at this level," he told the team's media officer. "They can identify the pluses and minuses and work on them in the period ahead. "Of course, games like these are also an opportunity for players to prove their right to participate with the national team and gain experience. We will be playing against two very different schools of football - the European brand when we take on Moldova and the African style against Algeria. "The Algerian team is going to South Africa for the World Cup, so I am expecting a lot of fans to show up for this game."

There are two new faces in the squad, Fawzi Fayez, the Al Ain defender, and Sultan Ghaferi, the Baniyas midfielder who is determined to grab the opportunity that has come his way. "This is my first time and I am ready to be a part of the national team," said Ghaferi, 22. "My teammates have been really nice and encouraging, and this atmosphere has really helped in settling in. "I have got this opportunity now and I will do everything I can to become a regular part of the national team. It is up to me to grab my chances." Ismail Matar is one of the senior members of the team and the Al Wahda striker is enjoying the training sessions, despite the camp starting less than eight days after the end of the league campaign.

"The climate here in Austria is ideal," he said. "This camp comes just after the end of our season, but we are confident it will be a successful one. We are working on the technical side of the game and trying to build a team capable of competing in the competitions ahead. "From our side, we are ready to make any sacrifices for the benefit of the team." Mohammed al Shehi, Matar's Wahda teammate, is looking forward to the friendly matches to put Katanec's plans into practice and give the coach more options.

"The two matches against Moldova and Algeria are very important as they give the players an opportunity to learn and put our coach's strategy into practice," said al Shehi. "He will be using these matches to plan for the official matches ahead and create more options, and we will do everything we can to help with that." arizvi@thenational.ae