Still a work in progress but the UAE buying into Pinto’s philosophy

James Jose/Dubai
Filed on November 13, 2020
UAE coach Jorge Luis Pinto during the game against Tajikistan in Dubai on Thursday night. — UAEFA

The coach is slowly working his magic with the National football team

No football manager likes to begin his tenure with a defeat and Jorge Luis Pinto certainly wouldn’t have liked to have started his reign with the UAE with one.

But he would be a much relieved man after tasting his first success on Thursday night, with the Colombian hoping it would be the first if many more to come.

Having been handed the reins in July, Pinto spent a considerable amount of time with his wards on camps, getting to know them, their style of play, their strengths and their weaknesses, and work on them.

The overall remit is the UAE’s qualification for a second World Cup, with their chances tantalisingly trapezing on a rope.

And as he preps his team towards that, a flurry of international friendlies have been drawn up to sharpen them for the battles that lay ahead.

A 2-1 defeat to Uzbekistan, 10 places below them at 84 in the Fifa world rankings, in October wasn’t the most ideal of starts for Pinto, the shrewd tactician, who guided Costa Rica to the quarterfinal of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

But luckily enough, it was not a baptism by fire for the 67-year-old as it came in an international football friendly.

On Thursday night, at the Zabeel Stadium, Al Wasl’s fortress, Pinto oversaw his first triumph in charge of the UAE, a 3-2 win over Tajikistan in another friendly.

Friendlies are only in name but there’s nothing ‘friendly’ about it as both teams go toe to toe and fight tooth and nail for a victory.

And the game had all the hallmarks, or rather, Pinto’s imprint on it. The UAE played free flowing football and were at their attacking best. The infusion of Caio Canedo and Fabio de Lima into the line-up has added heft and certainly helped. But it is not just two who make a team and Pinto has quickly managed to get the best out of the quality Emirati talent at his disposal.

The standout was how the UAE fought hard in the closing stages and didn’t let their guard down. They applied relentless pressure and turned what would have been a 2-2 draw into a 3-2 win, at the fag end.

The early signs are promising but it is still a work in progress. If anything, for all their attacking intent, Pinto still needs to work and tighten up the backline. They conceded two goals inside the first 20 minutes and while it was a remarkable fightback from there, a porous defence could hurt, going forward.

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