Dubai: The UAE will take on India in a friendly match in end-March as part of their preparations for the joint qualifiers for 2022 Fifa World Cup Qatar and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup China.
The second round of the joint qualifiers were initially scheduled to be held in March but have since been postponed for a later date. The UAE squad conducted a brief training camp under coach Bert van Marwijk last month prior to playing out a goalless draw in a friendly against visiting Iraq on January 12.
Since then, the squad has dispersed and are now continuing with their respective clubs. Playing in Group G, the UAE is in fourth position with six points behind current group leaders Vietnam (11 points), Malaysia (nine) and Thailand (eight) while cellar-placed Indonesia are yet to get off the mark.
With an additional match in hand, the UAE were supposed to host Malaysia in Dubai on March 25 and then travel to Cikarang for their away match against Indonesia on March 30. However, Fifa and AFC came to a joint decision last week that saw a further postponement of the qualifying rounds to tentative dates in the first half of June.
As per the new tentative schedule, the UAE will host Malaysia in Dubai on June 3 before taking on Indonesia on June 7. Their last two matches will be at home against Thailand and Vietnam on June 11 and 15, respectively.
The friendly against India on March 29 was confirmed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday. The Blue Tigers are also scheduled to take on Oman in their first friendly match on March 25 and then play the UAE four days later. Both matches will be played in Dubai.
India’s campaign is also in disarray as they languish in fourth place after having played five matches in Group E. Qatar are runaway leaders with 16 points from six matches, followed by Oman in second with 12 points from five games, Afghanistan in third with four points from five games and India with three points from the three drawn encounters against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Asian champions Qatar.
The Indian team, now being coached by Igor Stimac, is expected to land in the UAE in March and hold a training camp prior to their friendlies against Oman and the UAE. Van Marwijk, meanwhile, is expected to add fresh faces to his squad of core players by the middle of March.
The Dutch coach, who is serving his second stint with the UAE team, will want to firm up his first choice list of players who can be useful in his strategy heading into the qualifying rounds later this year. “I am attending matches of the Arabian Gulf League and the Arabian Gulf Cup so that I can pull in new players who would fit into my plan of things,” van Marwijk said.
“We’ve met as a squad for short training camps on a couple of occasions already. The idea behind these meetings is to keep the players fresh on our style of play looking ahead. What has happened in the past is not important at the moment. We have a task to accomplish and we’ve got to do this as a team,” he insisted.