UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

It may just be a friendly but Thursday's match could set the tone for both sides heading into their respective new eras. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

  • New era for both the Whites and the Green Falcons after Asian Cup.
  • World Cup qualifiers start in September.

LONDON: That the UAE-Saudi Arabia clash today is a friendly is apt. With Bert van Marwijk now confirmed as the new UAE boss, and in the stands for the clash, the match will be a meeting of old mates.
The Dutchman memorably guided the Green Falcons to last year’s World Cup — their first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — before contract talks stalled and he left. Now, 18 months on from his exit, Saudi Arabia are again looking for another manager following Juan Antonio Pizzi’s departure after the Asian Cup. And for both sides there is a distinct feeling of limbo.
The Asian Cup promised much for Pizzi’s players. Two comfortable opening wins over North Korea and Lebanon were followed up with defeats to eventual winners Qatar and a second round exit at the hands of Japan. It was the opposite of how their World Cup went. While the team got better with every match in Russia, at the Asian Cup the Green Falcons’ form petered out and utimately they exited with a whimper.
This match is the perfect chance for Salem Al-Dawsari and Co. to recover the form they showed in the latter half of Pizzi’s reign with the World Cup qualifiers set to start in September.
For the UAE there is the same sense of ennui, even with Van Marwijk set to become the new boss. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the Whites played a brand of football that would have challenged a sleeping tablet as a cure for insomnia. Too defensive, too risk averse, it was ultimately no surprise when the hosts failed to win the Asian Cup on home soil at the start of the year.
They may have reached the semifinals, but the UAE failed to inspire confidence, and this clash offers the chance of a fresh start on and off the pitch.
The UAE’s “Golden Generation” ultimately failed to achieve World Cup qualification or Asian Cup success when at least one of them seemed, at one point, like a sure thing. The next year or two will likely see that stable of players slowly ushered out. However, the chance of an early sighting of the young guns that will replace them has been kicked into touch due to the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualification commitments of the UAE’s young players. Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup final also means that interim coach Saleem Abdelrahman will not be able to call on the Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club and Al-Wahda.
Both teams will not be at full strength tonight and it will be hard to read anything into the result. But this match offers up a great chance to press the reset button ahead of World Cup qualifying later this year.


Rafael Nadal: Wimbledon seeding system disrespects world tennis rankings

Updated 25 June 2019
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Rafael Nadal: Wimbledon seeding system disrespects world tennis rankings

  • Rafael Nadal will be seeded three and Roger Federer two at the All England Club this year
  • Wimbledon uses its own formula to dictate the order

MADRID: Rafael Nadal has complained about Wimbledon’s seeding system after the Spaniard was placed at number three, behind Roger Federer, for next week’s grand slam in London.
The other three major tournaments all match their seeding to the official world rankings but Wimbledon uses its own formula to dictate the order, combining ranking points with form in grass-court competitions.
It means Nadal will be seeded three and Federer two at the All England Club this year, despite their positions being the reverse in the rankings list.
“Wimbledon is the only tournament of the year that does it like this,” Nadal told Spanish television channel Movistar on Monday night.
“Obviously it would be better to be two than three but if they think I have to be three I will accept three and fight to win the matches I have to win.
“Having said that, the only thing that doesn’t seem right about this issue is that it is only Wimbledon that does it. If they all did it, it would seem more correct.
“It’s not only about my particular case. There have been many occasions when players have played well all year on all surfaces but Wimbledon does not respect the ranking they have earned.
“And for this reason, they get more complicated draws.”
Nadal is yet to play an official match on grass this year while Federer warmed up for Wimbledon last week by winning his 10th title at the grass-court tournament in Halle.
Federer and top seed Novak Djokovic will be at opposite ends of the Wimbledon draw, separated until the final, but Nadal is guaranteed to have either Federer or Djokovic in his half, and could meet them in the semis.
“For me personally, it means if I am three, to get to the final, Djokovic or Federer will be in my half,” Nadal added.
“But that can only happen in the semifinals and to get there I have to win five matches. Today I’m far away.”
Nadal claimed his 18th major title earlier this month by winning the French Open for a record-extending 12th time. He now sits behind only Federer’s 20 grand slam triumphs in the all-time list of male champions.