UAE hoping for happy homecoming
Striker Ahmed Khalil during a practice session. - UAE FA
Dubai - The Whites take on Indonesia in a World Cup qualifier at the Al Maktoum Stadium
Exactly a month to the day after Bert van Marwijk oversaw his first competitive win as the UAE coach, the Dutchman is hoping for a happy homecoming when his team resumes action.
The Whites will rock up at the Al Maktoum Stadium to face Indonesia in their second Group G fixture of the joint AFC Asian Cup and World Cup qualifier on Thursday night.
It will mark the first home game for the UAE during the current campaign and the first for the 67-year-old as well.
It would be stating the obvious but gleaning full points is paramount for the Dutchman, who guided the Netherlands to a runner-up finish at the 2010 World Cup, especially in front of the home fans.
With all due respect, Indonesia should be a piece of cake, going by the gulf that exists in the rankings. There is daylight between the two with The Whites ranked 66 and the Indonesians 101 spots below in 167.
But to go with that line of thinking would be a folly, the case in point being the UAE's match against Malaysia. The Whites had to weather the Malaysian storm before coming through 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur last month.
And that was not lost on Marwijk, who coached Australia at the World Cup in Russia.
"Two of the most important things for tomorrow (Thursday) is that we don't underestimate Indonesia and that we are ourselves," Marwijk said at his pre-match briefing on Wednesday.
"We have already had a few training camps the last few months. We were in Austria and Bahrain and now we prepared for five days. I prefer to prepare longer, but we used every minute of the training camp to develop our own style of football," he added.
To that end, Marwijk have additional firepower with the return of Shabab Al Ahli frontman Ahmed Khalil, who will partner Al Jazira marksman Ali Mabkhout.
And add to that, Omar Abdulrahman's presence, makes it a relishing prospect, although it remains to be seen whether both are named in the starting XI or will come off the bench.
Marwijk would've liked more game time for 'Amoory' in the Arabian Gulf League but Al Jazira, his new club, perhaps have been wise in slowly easing in the gifted playmaker following his injury lay-off. The 28-year-old has clearly been wrapped in cotton wool.
"He's an exceptionally good player, you see that every moment you work with him," Marwijk said of Omar.
"We were on training camps with him in Bahrain. We had to be very, very careful. We had contact with his club every day and I think we brought him further and further. And then, afterwards, I hoped he would play more at his club, but he played only maybe 15, 20 minutes in one game, played maybe 60 minutes. He's getting fitter and fitter. And I'm happy. He's maybe 90 per cent," he added.
About Khalil, he said: "He's had some issues that everybody knows for the past few weeks and I'm very, very happy that he's back. He makes a very a very good impression, he works unbelievably hard. I like him as a player and also as a person so I'm happy that he's in the squad."
Underdogs tag suits us: McMenemyJames Jose
DUBAI - They are certainly the underdogs and it's a tag that suits Indonesia coach Simon McMenemy ahead of their Group G AFC Asian Cup and World Cup qualifying fixture against hosts UAE.
The Indonesians are rooted at the bottom of the table after an unfortunate loss to Malaysia in stoppage and then a chastening defeat to Thailand.
They face an even bigger test by going up against the UAE, the top ranked side in the group. But McMenemy believes that being the underdogs is perhaps a blessing in disguise.
"It's obviously a big, big challenge for us. I have a lot of respect for this well-known nation," McMenemy said on Wednesday.
"Certainly, in terms of Asian football, they don't come much bigger. It is a challenge for us to come here, but if we want to improve our football, we need to meet this challenge. Without a doubt, the players understand it but I want them to come here and enjoy," he added.
The Scotsman also said that belief and the mindset was important going into such a game.
"With respect to the host nation, we want to fight for everything we can get. We have to believe we have enough weapons to do damage to the UAE. We cannot come here with a negative attitude. We have many hurdles to jump. We are confident we have a game plan, playing as the underdogs, that is a powerful thing sometimes.
The 41-year-old reckoned that they can punch a few holes on a UAE side that is in transition. "There is change within the UAE team. There is a new coach looking to prove himself and prove himself to the fans, making decisions that work. If we can make his job difficult, as a team, and stop them, then anything can happen. We have to believe," said McMenemy.
MATCH INFO:WHAT: UAE vs Indonesia, Group G World Cup Qualifier
TIME: 8 p.m
WHERE: Al Maktoum Stadium, Al Nasr Club, Oud Metha
TICKETS: Start from Dh 20 and are available on dubai.platinumlist.net