UAE Under-17 coach Rashid Amir believes his side can reach the semi-finals of this winter’s FIFA U-17 World Cup on home soil.
Amir on Saturday confirmed a 26-man squad that will be trimmed to 23 players for the finals, which take place across the Emirates between October 17 and November 8.
The UAE have taken part in the U-17 World Cup twice before, returning home from Italy after the group stage in 1991 before making the last 16 in Nigeria four years ago, where they lost to Turkey.
However, with home advantage, Amir is hoping his side can improve their performance in the finals still further come October.
“Despite the difficulty of the task we have set our sights on reaching the semi-finals of the competition as a goal,” Amir said.
The UAE are leaving nothing to chance ahead of the finals and have taken part in several tournaments at home and abroad over the past 12 months.
The U-17s also competed in last season’s UAE U-19 national league to give them the experience of playing against more physical opposition. And Amir will hope they have learned their lesson if they are placed in a group with either Brazil or Nigeria at the official draw in Abu Dhabi on August 26.
“Nigeria are one of the main participating teams in the finals and have enormous physical strength,” Amir added. “The Brazilian national team will also be a strong competitor in the finals.”
The junior Whites, who have played 22 international matches under Amir winning 10, will embark on a 24-day training camp in Turkey from July 12, before they head to either Austria or Switzerland between August 12 and September 9.
Their coach admits that spending so much time together, especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan, could lead to boredom but believes the lure of playing at the World Cup will keep minds focused.
He added: “Readiness to participate in an event like the U-17 World Cup is a great incentive to the players which pushes them to work harder in order to prepare as required.”
Meanwhile, UAE Football Association vice-president Obaid Al Shamsi said the UAE had proved it could host “important” international football events.
The Emirates has played host to the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, while more recently Abu Dhabi hosted two additions of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010.
“The UAE is capable of organising the World Cup Under-17 distinctively from the reality of the great potential available and the experience that allowed it to host global events important in football over the past years,“ he said.
“Our confidence in the national team players and technical and administrative staff is large in order to provide a good level for his host country.”
Al Shamsi also insisted that the FA’s support of the U-17s would continue well after the World Cup, regardless of their results.
UAE U-17 SQUAD:
Ali Ghuloom, Suhail Salim Ali (Al Ahli),
Sohail Ahmed Nubian (Bani Yas),
Faisal Hussein Khoury, Sultan Saeed Al Shamsi, Mohammed Khaled Al Mansouri, Zayed Abdullah Al Amiri, Hamad Khalid Al Junaibi, Shahin Al Darmaki (Al Jazira),
Adel Abdul-Hadi Mohammed (Hatta),
Ahmed Soliman (Dibba Al Hisn),
Omar Juma Rabiah (Sharjah),
Khaled Mohammed Darwish (Al Shabab),
Zayed Ahmed Al Hammadi, Abdullah Ibrahim Jassim (Dhafra),
Firas bin Saleh, Sultan bin Fairuz, Khaled Al Zayed (Al Ain),
Hamid Abdullah (Fujairah),
Hamad Mohammed Ismail, Ibrahim Abbas, Rashid Ahmed Rashid (Al Nasr),
Mohammed Salman Akbari, Ahmad Rashid Sultan, Mohamed Hassan Khalifa (Al Wahda),
Abdullah Mohammed Kazem (Al Wasl)