Resurgent UAE perfect test for Socceroos

Following the 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia at Craven Cottage in September come games in Abu Dhabi and Doha over the coming week against United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

As tests go, they are excellent. Not only does Ange Postecoglou have to prepare for games with Kuwait and Oman when it all kicks off in three months' time, he can get another handle on where some of West Asia's finest are at the moment. 

Qatar is not expected to be a genuine contender for the continental title but is the kind of team that must be beaten by those that are. UAE has the talent to go all the way.

It's close on four years since the two teams last met, a goalless draw in Al Ain with the likes of Sasa Ognenovski and Scott McDonald starting. There have obviously been many changes for the UAE also and most for the better. 

Not long after that stalemate, the team crashed out of qualification for the 2014 World Cup, finishing bottom of their group in the penultimate round.

That failure meant the end of coach Strecko Katenec and his uninspiring brand of 'Kateneccio' - the Slovenian was the last in a fairly long line of foreign coaches in charge. After a short spell from Abdullah Masfar, the main man has been Mehdi Ali.

The former Al Ahli midfielder has worked with various levels of UAE youth teams and then took the U-23 version through qualification, as Aussie fans will remember, for the 2012 Olympics. 

There, the team performed well and given his knowledge of the players, coaching talents and the desire for stability and a sense of continuity, he got the big job.

London, or perhaps Manchester, marked the coming out party of this so-called UAE golden generation. Omar Abdulrahman's reputation blossomed after bossing Uruguay at Old Trafford. Now 23, the playmaker is perhaps Asia's hottest property and has turned down deals with the likes of Manchester City. Unfortunately for host and visitor on Friday, his weak knees are again a cause for concern and he will be absent.

All is not lost. With Ahmed Khalil in attack there is a goals-coring threat and four goals in September's Asian Games has led to a recall for Saeed Al Kathiri and Rashid Essa, another star of the Olympics, returns to the fold after lengthy injury problems. 

The team is full of confidence and, unusually for West Asian teams, has been playing a series of games against European opposition and getting decent results too.

If UAE is a dark horse for the Asian Cup, though just how dark is a matter of debate, then Qatar is not. The 2022 host would be happy to get to the knockout stages. 

Any further than that and Algerian coach, Djamal Belmadi, a fairly surprise appointment given his age, 38, and lack of experience, will have to get the very best from attacking stars Sebastian Soria and Khalfan Ibrahim.

Much depends on the Uruguay-born striker and the 2006 Asian Player of the Year who shone once again earlier this week in a 3-0 win over Uzbekistan. Soria blows hot and cold, but can be devastating in the air when on form. 

Khalfan is full of flair and dribbles. The 26 year-old is one of the most naturally talented players in all of Asia, often plays a free role, roving in search of the ball. He's hard to pick up and harder to dispossess.

These tests are going to be tough and that is exactly what the Socceroos are looking for as the team and the Asian Cup move ever closer to Australian soil.