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.


15-member Pakistan cricket squad announced for World Cup 2019

Updated 18 April 2019
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15-member Pakistan cricket squad announced for World Cup 2019

  • The team includes three openers, four middle-order batsmen, two spinners, five fast bowlers and a wicketkeeper/batsman
  • Squad can be changed until 23rd May without informing the ICC

LAHORE: Pakistan on Thursday announced its 15-member cricket squad for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup that will be held in England at the end of the next month.
“We have selected the best available cricketers to play the very important tournament. While picking the team, we evaluated our strengths, analyzed our opponents, considered match venues, and kept the event format in our mind,” chief selector, Inzamamul Haq, told reporters here on Thursday afternoon.
Haq said that 11 players in the new cricket team had also played and won the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England under Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy. He added that the squad included three openers, four middle-order batsmen, two spinners, five fast bowlers and a wicketkeeper/batsman.
Despite his injury, Imad Waseem has been included in the team while Muhammad Hafeez has also been take on board, though his final selection would be subject to his fitness.
“Hafeez and Shoaib are experienced players,” Haq said, “while Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hasnain constitute the most lethal bowling unit. They have tremendous variation and variety, making it easy for them to take wickets and keep our rivals under pressure.”
The chief selector told the media that Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali would play the series against England but not participate in the world cup matches.
The ICC regulations required all participating teams to name their 15-player World Cup squad by 30th April, though changes can be made until 23rd May without seeking the ICC approval. Post-May 23, all replacements will have to be approved by the Event Technical Committee.
The Pakistan Team will play a series of five One Day International matches against the host country, England, besides playing a few warm-up matches with different county cricket teams before the start of the world fixture.
As per schedule, the team will leave for England on 23rd April for an 83-day tour. Pakistan will play its first world cup match against the West Indies on 31st May at Trent Bridge while the most interesting and crucial match of the tournament will be played on 16th June at the Old Trafford between Pakistan and India. The schedule of the team’s other World Cup matches is mentioned below:
June 03 – v England, Trent Bridge; June 07 – v Sri Lanka, Bristol; June 12 – v Australia, Taunton; June 16 – v India, Old Trafford; June 23 – v South Africa, Lords; June 26 – v New Zealand, Edgbaston; June 29 – v Afghanistan, Headingley; July 05 – v Bangladesh, Lords (d/n).
Pakistan squad includes:
Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain.