Dubai: UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni has dropped star players Ali Mabkhout and Omar Abdul Rahman from next weekend’s Kings Cup tournament in Thailand from March 22-25.
It follows four match domestic bans for the pair who broke a curfew and left the team’s hotel in Kuwait without permission along with Mohammad Fawzi the night before their Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman in January.
Their appeals were rejected and suspensions had been served making them available for a call-up, but this latest snub appears to be another message from Zaccheroni that such behaviour won’t be tolerated under the Italian’s watch.
It could of course also be an opportunity to field alternatives and give youth like Mohammad Al Attas and Saif Rashid a chance to shine, something Zaccheroni needs to do to strengthen his second line.
The Gulf Cup final defeat followed the UAE’s failed bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under Edgardo Bauza last September and was Zaccheroni’s first tournament since taking charge in October.
The Kings Cup is a four-team friendly tournament involving hosts Thailand, Slovakia and Gabon. Napoli striker Marek Hamsik and Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are both expected to play for their respective national sides; Slovakia and Gabon. This tournament will be used as the start of a build-up by the UAE national team ahead of their hosting of the Asian Cup in January. It remains to be seen how Mabkhout and Abdul Rahman will react to being dropped and how this might impact on next year’s tournament.
King’s Cup fixtures
Slovakia — UAE, 1.30pm
Thailand — Gabon, 4.30pm
Third-place play-off, 1.30pm