As the clock ticks down on the AFC Asian Cup, UAE will have one final dash over the next fortnight before the continental showpiece arrives at our doorstep.
With exactly 21 days left for Asia's biggest competition on home soil, UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni has the final opportunity to get things in order and fine-tune things before the tournament begins on January 5.
The UAE squad will gather for the fifth and final camp on Saturday and the Italian tactician, who guided Japan to the title in 2011, will have the chance to add the missing pieces before the tournament proper. The camp is set to conclude on December 31.
Back in May and with 238 days to go, Zaccheroni had outlined the UAE's road map for the competition with a flurry of camps and it now comes down to this one. Zaccheroni has been keen on adding two more friendlies, possibly against Hong Kong, Singapore or Kazakhstan during their final meeting.
But his task has been hampered somewhat by injuries over the course of the previous camps most notably to gifted playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and talisman Ismail Matar, among others.
Omar has been completely ruled out of the competition after he suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Al Hilal's game against Al Shabab Riyadh in the Saudi Pro League in October. The 27-year-old has since undergone surgery is currently on the path to rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Matar, who made a dramatic return to the squad after more than a year out in the wilderness, is in doubt after suffering a hairline fracture on his cheekbone during Al Wahda's Arabian Gulf League fixture against Sharjah earlier this month.
Zaccheroni will also be missing Al Ain players for a large part of the camp as they are busy with the Fifa Club World Cup.
Over the course of the previous camps in Austria and Spain, the UAE drew 0-0 with Andorra, lost 2-0 to Trinidad and Tobago, beat Laos 3-0, drew 1-1 with Honduras, lost 2-0 to Venezuela, drew 0-0 to Bolivia and beat Yemen 2-0.
The UAE are in Group A along with India, Bahrain and Thailand and take on their Middle Eastern counterparts Bahrain in the tournament opener at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on January 5.
By James Jose
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