The numbers make sorry reading for miserly UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni.
Saturday’s worrisome draw against minnows Andorra featured zero goals. It came against opponents ranked 130th in the world by FIFA, 56 places below the UAE.
This was the listless culmination of an 18-day training camp in the undulating Austrian countryside. A period in which fissures were opened up in the relationships with two of the nation’s biggest sides, Al Ain and Al Jazira, both angered by limited preparatory time for Arab Club Champions Cup ties.
In the 10 months of Zaccheroni’s cheerless reign, his record in internationals reads; four wins, four draws and four defeats. The Whites have become a boon to insomniacs throughout this period, scoring just four goals and conceding five.
Their run to consequential defeat in the winter’s Gulf Cup contained one strike in normal time.
Striker Ali Mabkhout got it from the penalty spot in the group-stage opener against Oman. For comparison, he top scored in 2014’s previous edition with five goals under Mahdi Ali.
Mabkhout is one of the UAE’s three totems, alongside now Al Hilal playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and 2015 AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil. The first two mentioned broke curfew – along with now-discarded right-back Mohammed Fawzi – before the Gulf Cup final defeat to Oman and have played zero UAE internationals since.
Even though March’s exile for the Thailand’s King’s Cup ended this summer, neither were present for Sunday’s depressing stalemate at Grodig’s sun-drenched DAS.GOLDBERG Stadion.
Mabkhout is back in Abu Dhabi with Al Jazira after a 2-1 loss to Riyadh’s Al Nassr in last week’s ACCC’s opener. Abdulrahman had the small matter of making a winning debut for new paymasters in Saturday’s Saudi Super Cup clash against Al Ittihad at London’s Loftus Road.
Any Asian nation missing such premium talents will struggle. Even against Andorra.
Where insight could be found in the dour, aged methods of Zaccheroni came in the make-up of the starting XI selected.
The Italian could not help himself and chose eight defensively-minded players at kick-off. Only Khalil and fellow Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club star Ismail Al Hammadi could be classified as out-and-out attackers.
The digits to cause real concern are: 140. This is the number of days left over until the bumbling UAE kick-off the continental festivities against Bahrain on January 5.
Frankly, preparations could hardly be going any worse.
It’s seven years since Zaccheroni won the Asian Cup with Japan and 19 years since his defining Serie A success with AC Milan. Temptation must be building within the UAE Football Association to make it four different coaches since the beginning of March 2017.
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