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World Cup: UAE gear up to resume qualifying campaign

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The Whites take on Tajikistan in a friendly on Thursday night.

It hasn’t been an easy time with the UAE football team undergoing preparations and then being in holding pattern, because of the pandemic.

But now, a clearer picture has emerged as to when The Whites can get onto the pitch and tackle their opponents and put their crucial World Cup qualifying campaign back into gear.

After being postponed twice — in March and then August — the UAE will resume their second round of qualifying which also acts as qualification for the AFC Asian Cup in 2023.

The AFC Competitions Committee held its third meeting for the 2019-2023 cycle, chaired by Dr.Tran Quoc Tuan and after consultations with Fifa, announced on Wednesday that Round 2 fixtures will be played in March and June next year, with the third round pencilled in for September.

“It was agreed that all the Asian Qualifiers Round 2 matches should be completed by June 15, 2021 with Match Day 7 and 8 in March 2021 and Match Day 9 and 10 in June 2021 with the Final Round of the Asian Qualifiers beginning in September 2021,” the AFC said in a statement.

“It was agreed that the 10 match days of the Asian Qualifiers Final Round should be finished by the end of March 2022,” the statement added.

It means that the UAE, who currently sit fourth in Group G, will restart their journey next March.

New coach Jorge Luis Pinto is yet to take charge in a competitive game since being appointed in July this year.

The fixtures, which were initially slated to be held in March and June, were pushed back until October and November.

The Whites were to host Malaysia on October 8 before travelling to face Indonesia on October 13. They were to play Thailand on November 12 and Vietnam on November 17, at home. sThe UAE need to win all four matches to make it to the next round.

Colombian Pinto, who famously minnows Costa Rica to the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, oversaw his first official match in charge last month, with the UAE going down to Uzbekistan 2-1 in a friendly on Fifa match day.

The 67-year-old had begun his stint with a camp in Al Ain soon after taking over in July. The squad had also undergone a camp in Serbia in August during which they played a couple of friendlies.

Pinto named a 27-man squad which assembled for a camp at the Al Nasr Club in Oud Metha, on Sunday. The camp ends on November 16.

The UAE, who are ranked 74 in the world, will take on Tajikistan, placed 122, at the Zabeel Stadium on Thursday. They then go up against Bahrain, ranked 99, on November 16. The squad includes the attacking triumvirate of Caio Canedo, Fabio de Lima and Sebastian Tagliabue, who were granted UAE citizenship earlier this year. Talisman Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil have been left out because of injuries.

Kick-off is at 6pm.


Khalid Essa (Al Ain), Ali Khaseif (Al Jazira), Adel Al Hosani (Sharjah), Mahmoud Khamis (Al Nasr), Yousef Jaber (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai), Khalifa Al Hammadi (Al Jazira), Salem Rashid (Al Jazira), Shaheen Abdelrahman (Sharjah), Faris Juma (Al Wahda), Mohammed Shaker (Al Ain), Mohammed Barghash (Al Wahda), Abdulaziz Haikal (Shabab Al Ahli Dubai), Ahmed Barman (Al Ain), Khamis Esmail (Al Wahda), Khaled Bawazir (Sharjah), Majed Surour (Sharjah), Abdullah Ramadan (Al Jazira), Mohammed Al Attas (Al Jazira), Fabio De Lima (Al Wasl), Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain), Khalfan Mubarak (Al Jazira), Habib Fardan (Al Nasr), Khalil Ibrahim (Al Wahda), Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira), Ali Saleh (Al Wasl), Caio (Al Ain), Sebastian Tagliabue (Nasr).

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto.

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