Friday, July 30, 2010

Ali hopes more of his youngsters make the next step

Several youngsters have been promoted to the senior squad from Mahdi Ali's Under 23 side. Ryan Carter / The National
Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic football team coach, believes the Under 23 Gulf Cup will provide an ideal platform for his side’s preparations for the Asian Games in Guangdong, China, from November 12 to 27.

Ali’s side, making their debut in the second staging of the championship, face Saudi Arabia, the defending champions, tonight (KO 9pm) in Group B at the Aspire Academy stadium in Doha, Qatar.

“Our main task is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, and this type of competition will surely help us in our preparation,” said Ali, who made the nation proud by leading the UAE to the last eight in the Under 20 World Cup in Egypt last year.

“It is not only a good platform for us, but the competition is designed to provide all the Gulf teams with an equal opportunity. The timing is good and all teams have come after their training camps abroad. It is a good trial for all the players.”

Ali may not be able to pick his best players for the Asian Games as some of top prospects have been drafted in to the senior squad preparing for the 20th Gulf Cup in Yemen, from November 22 to December 4.

Hamdan al Kamali, the U20 captain, along with Ahmed Khalil, the 2008 Asian Youth Player of the Year, Yousif Abdelrahman, Sultan al Minhali, Theyab Awana, Amer Abdulrahman, Mohammed Fayez and Ali Mabkhout have all played for the senior side.

Obviously I would like to have all those players in my squad, but they have made the grade and now have a better role to play in the senior squad,” said Ali. “I am quite satisfied with the players with whom I am working with. They have shown remarkable improvement and have the potential to follow in the footsteps of those who have made it to the senior team. These boys have been together for more than a year and this tournament is a good test for them as well as a good opportunity for me to see how they have progressed. The first game is always important and full points from it will give us a chance to reach the last four after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait played out a draw [in their opener on Wednesday]. They are all pretty good sides but we will go with the idea of winning this first game.”

Ali’s squad arrived in Qatar direct from a three-week camp in Nuremburg, Germany.

Oman, who top Group A after a crushing 2-0 win over Qatar in their opening game, face Bahrain tonight (KO 6.30pm). They head and need only a draw to secure a place in the semi-finals to be played on August 4.

In the Pro League, Abdulsalam Jumaa, the Al Jazira defender, has been ruled out for three months following groin surgery.

The 31-year-old aggravated a long-standing problem during the club’s training camp in Austria and it was deemed serious enough to require an operation.
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