Beware UAE, says former Emirates based Aussie coach

The UAE are capable of catching out the Olyroos in transition, according to one Aussie coach who’s worked in the Emirates and knows their football well.

PS4 NPL Victoria coach Huss Skenderovic spent three years at club level in the UAE with Ajman.

He also worked with UAE national U-17 level coaches and as a result gained valuable insights into how they’ll play when the Olyroos face them on Friday morning (AEDT) in the opening Group D game of the AFC U-23 Championships in Doha, which double as Rio Olympics qualifiers. 

Skenderovic only recently returned to take up the coaching job with Victorian outfit Dandenong Thunder, but keeps in touch with his UAE contacts and knows their players and developing football culture well.

“They are in a very fortunate position in that they get together very often at their training facility in Dubai. They are all local based so they know each other well. So structurally they’re very sound and organised.

They play together all the time which is a big bonus,” Skenderovic told

“And over the last 5-6 years they’ve brought in a different style of football.

They play a possession based game but now there is a dynamic element to their game that hasn’t been seen before. It is something you saw when the senior UAE team played in the Asian Cup a year ago... when they transition, they’ve some pacy players.

"It’s something the Olyroos needs to be mindful of.”

Gallery: Olyroos prepare for AFC opener

This UAE Olympic side have a lot to live up to after their “Golden Generation” caught the eye at the 2012 London Olympics (under the wily Mahdi Ali), but they will feel confident of finishing in the top three and qualifying for Rio.

 The Olyroos are in Group D of the 16-team tournament and play... 

·         United Arab Emirates on Thursday January 14 (Friday morning AEDT)

·         Vietnam on January 17

·         Jordan on January 20

UAE's current U-23 coach Abdullah Misfir was appointed 11 months ago, replacing Ali Ibrahim, and is methodical and a deep thinker who has a good relationship with his players, according to Skenderovic.

“Now they play out from the number three or four, or get the six on the ball and he starts dictating the tempo of the game, that’s become a real strength of their game.

“No matter who plays in that area, you’re pretty much guaranteed that’ll be how they’ll play and their playmaker at the ten will complement that type of game.”

The UAE, however, also has the advantage of being based just a 45 minute flight from Doha and will face almost identical conditions to what they’re accustomed to. 

What’s more, their squad is entirely home-based, which means they can call on their strongest group and are unaffected by European clubs refusing to release their players in a non-FIFA window.

“They are definitely good enough to qualify for the Olympics. This is the time they can take that next step and say in that Gulf region, they are pretty much number one,” says Skenderovic.

“And they are really passionate about their country, their rulers Sheikh Maktoum and Sheikh Zayed...they have that edge over Australia. These guys love their leaders so much.

“The team represent those leaders and that makes them so patriotic when they put their jersey on."

He added: They’ll be at full strength, injuries notwithstanding. Their season isn’t as full-on as some think but the key is they recover well and have the facilities to recover well".

Furthermore, Skenderovic has nothing but respect for the sometimes maligned Arabian Gulf League (formerly the UAE Pro League), which produces the players in their Olympic team. 

“They have relegation pressures which the A-League doesn’t have. And of course there’s so much prizemoney and prestige for winning the league over there.

“It’s more advanced technically than Australia.

“Their foreign contingent is quality. We can’t compete with that and the UAE players only get better as a result [of their quality foreign players].”