Caltex Socceroos opponent dossier: UAE in Spain

Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden spotlights the United Arab Emirates' preparations in Spain last month.

The UAE recently finished a month-long training camp in Spain. 

The Whites showed the benefit of that preparation with a stunning win over Japan last Thursday. 

All are hoping for a first appearance on the global stage since 1990.

UAE 1990 World Cup

The UAE squad at the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

In the past decade or so, Spanish football has an quite an influence around the planet with Josep Gombau and Gui Amor's success at Adelaide United just one example. 

UAE's time in Europe will, it hopes, provide an edge in what is sure to be a closely fought group.

"We are benefiting a lot from the training programme developed by the technical staff,” said defender Mohanad Salem who added that the team spirit in Spain was excellent.

"We have to redouble our efforts against Japan and Australia, especially the first encounter. 

"A positive result there will give us a strong start in the third round of the qualifiers. It will also gives us added motivation to do even better in the future games,"

It ended last Tuesday with a 4-1 win over Spanish second-tier team Ucam Murcia. It was a fine performance from a strong line-up.

Ali Mabkhout, who was the top scorer at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, came off the bench in the second half to score twice with Salem Saleh and 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil grabbing the others.

Ali Mabkhout

Ali Mabkhout tries to get past Matt Spiranovic in the semi-finals of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

It was not just about the big names getting among the goals as coach Mahdi Ali used the 90 minutes to give plenty of squad players some time on the pitch too.

What may be of interest for Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is that Omar Abdulrahman, the team's playmaker and one of the stars of Asian football, played alongside Ahmad Khalil in attack against Levante.

The pair combined well though Abdulrahman's usual vision and passing from deeper was missed. It is unlikely that the sight of the bushy-haired baller start in the frontline will become a common one but it could be an option.

All in all it was a successful camp. It followed a goalless draw two days earlier with the recently relegated Levante and a 1-1 tie with Cartagena.

Perhaps the best result of the camp was the 1-0 win over La Liga's Las Palmas with the winning goal scored by that man Mabkhout.

Coach Mahdi Ali has appealed for the support of the entire country.

“Everyone must stand behind the team and support them in all their games," said the baseball-cap wearing boss.

UAE fans

UAE fans support their team during a World Cup qualifier at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

“This team has made a lot of dreams come true and our dream of qualifying for the World Cup is our biggest dream – we will fight to achieve it. 

"Our team believes in our own set of distinct elements that we believe gives us the capabilities to be able to overcome all difficulties.” 

It wasn't all wins and smiles, though. 

Unsurprisingly, Al Ain, preparing for a AFC Champions League quarter final later against Lokomotiv Tashkent later this month were less than pleased at being without seven of their best players for its own Spanish training camp.

The UAE national team camp may have ended but the team will be in Shanghai next week for an August 19 friendly with North Korea ahead of the big kick-off in Japan followed by the home tie with the Green and Gold.