UAE FA to decide on the future of coach Alberto Zaccheroni 'within days'

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The Italian has a fine CV, but has failed to impress since being appointed UAE coach late last year. (AFP)
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Updated 13 September 2018
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UAE FA to decide on the future of coach Alberto Zaccheroni 'within days'

  • 3-0 win over Laos on Tuesday may not be enough to save former AC Milan and Juventus boss.
  • Worry is that if performances don't improve rapidly the target of reaching the Asian Cup final, on home soil next year, will impossible to achieve.

LONDON: UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni will learn in the next few days whether he is to lead the country into next year’s Asian Cup on home soil, a UAE FA official has told Arab News.
Despite Tuesday’s 3-0 win over lowly Laos during the team’s Spanish training camp, question marks still hang over “Zac.” Disquiet has been growing in Abu Dhabi over the record of the experienced Italian, appointed last October, ahead of the 24-team continental tournament that kicks off in January. Before Tuesday’s victory over the Southeast Asians, ranked 178th in the world, the Whites had lost four and drawn one of their previous five matches and scored just three goals in 11 under the 65-year-old.
After reports of player unrest and frustration about the Italian’s beloved 3-4-3 formation, Zaccheroni caved into the pressure and went with a 4-2-3-1 over Laos. Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout, the team’s stars who had been punished for reportedly breaking a team curfew in January, returned and both found the net to ensure that the team scored more than one for the first time under Zaccheroni.
There are divisions within the UAE FA about whether the former Inter Milan and Juventus boss, who won the 2011 Asian Cup with Japan and left Tokyo after a disappointing performance in the 2014 World Cup, deserves to stay on until January.
But what is not in doubt is that his future currently hangs by a thread.
“Anyone can see that results have been poor but performances have too often been really poor,” an official at the UAE FA told Arab News, adding that the target for the Asian Cup is to make the final, as the team did in 1996 when they last hosted the tournament.
“We want to reach the final but if these performances continue then we are not to going to get close. There is a lot of concern and different opinions.”

The UAE in happier times, just after their victory in the Gulf Cup semifinal. Since the end of that tournament they have gone on to win only once and lost three of their five matches. 


The 2-0 loss to Trinidad and Tobago in Spain in the previous week was a dismal effort, and it followed a goalless draw with Andorra and a loss to Gabon.
After such a string of results, the Laos win was welcome for the coach who won the Serie A title with AC Milan in 1999.
“There are still discussions to be held about the recent results because if there is to be a change, it has to be soon,” added the official.
“If Zaccheroni had not changed the formation then it would have been tough for him but he has shown that he can be flexible and listen to the players. That, and the fact that he has won the Asian Cup in the region, may save him, but the next few days are crucial.”
Speculation has increased to the point that the names of other coaches have been thrown into the ring. Al-Ain boss Zoran Mamic has been linked with the job but distanced himself from the hot-seat.
“I am extremely flattered and honored that my name is mentioned in connection to the UAE head coach,” Mamic wrote on social media.
“But (the) national team has a coach, Zaccheroni (who) is a great coach with an amazing career and as Al-Ain coach I am totally focused on our next games.”
Former Al-Jazira boss Henk ten Cate has been another name added to the mix after the success the Dutchman had at club level. Rui Faria, Jose Mourinho’s former assistant at Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, has also been mentioned.
Publicly the UAE FA has been quick to back Zaccheroni, even if there is huge disquiet behind the scenes.
“The UAE Football Association denies what is being circulated in the media and social networking sites about communicating with any coach to take over for the Asian Cup,” a statement read.
“We appeal to everyone to stand behind the Whites and not to disturb preparations for the championships.”
For Zaccheroni’s part, he proclaimed that he was satisfied with the Spanish training camp.  
“The objective of these friendly matches is to develop the positives and address any negatives so we can avoid them in future,” he said.
“The players are implementing the vision of the technical staff on the field. The camp was successful and achieved the targets set.”
It remains to be seen if Zaccheroni is in charge when the national team returns to Spain next month for another training camp and tougher tests against Honduras and Venezuela.
The UAE kick off the Asian Cup on Jan. 5 against Bahrain in Abu Dhabi.


Mohamed Salah sure Liverpool can handle the pressure of Premier League title tilt

Updated 22 February 2019
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Mohamed Salah sure Liverpool can handle the pressure of Premier League title tilt

  • Reds face Manchester United on Sunday in crouch clash.
  • Egyptian ace says Reds will embrace the pressure as they g in each of first top-flight title since 1990.

LONDON: Mohamed Salah is in no doubt Liverpool can handle the pressure of the title run in, ahead of their crunch clash against arch-rivals Manchester United.
The Reds lie second in the Premier League table to Manchester City on goal difference, though with a game in hand. It was barely a month ago that they enjoyed a seven-point lead over the Abu Dhabi-owed club, but draws against Leicester and West Ham raised fears that Liverpool were starting to feel the strain of bidding for a first top-flight title since 1990.
But Salah has sought to put fans’ fears at ease, claiming the Reds are ready to embrace the pressure, starting at Anfield against familiar foe United.
“I said in November that there is pressure and it will be there until the end of the season, because when you play for the Premier League you have to accept that there is pressure,” Salah told Sky Sports.
“When you go home you can take it with you, but it can help you to work harder and focus on your game.
“At the end of the day you have a target in your mind, you have a dream, you want to win the Premier League. I even said that two years ago when I came — it is a dream to win the Premier League.”
Added to the pressure of trying to win the title is the fact that a clash against Manchester United is like nothing else the Reds come up against all season. The two teams are arch-rivals and Salah is only too aware that their North West neighbors would like nothing more than to ruin the Reds’ title charge.
The United encounter is the first of three tough fixtures in a week for Liverpool, with a midweek clash with Watford and the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on Sunday to come — a run of games that is not lost on Salah.
“It is a very big week for us,” Salah said. “And if we win three games and are top of the table, that is huge for us. When you have three games in a week or ten days, you just need to win, win, win, then after that you have time to think.
“Even when we are not top of the league, I know how much United want to win against Liverpool and Everton the same. For me it is not a big deal. We just need to do what we have been doing for the last couple of months.”