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Tagliabue raring to link up with UAE stars Mabkhout, Abdulrahman


Dubai: Sebastian Tagliabue is relishing the prospect of taking to the field with new international teammates Ali Mabkhout and Omar Abdulrahman as the Argentina-born front man moves closer to making his international debut for the United Arab Emirates.

The veteran Al Nasr forward received his UAE passport earlier in the year and was included in the training squad of new head coach Jorge Luis Pinto last week as the West Asian side prepare for their up-coming Asian Qualifiers Group G matches in October and November.

And the 35-year-old, who has been a prolific scorer since moving to the UAE in 2013, is looking forward to striking up a potent attacking partnership with the Al Jazeera duo over the coming weeks and months.

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“Ali’s a very good player, high level, as I always say,” Tagliabue told The National this week. “Sometimes with a player like Ali, like Amoory (Abdulrahman), like all the players here in the national team, it’s not difficult because they always give the ball to you correctly. You just have to make the movement.

“I’m not saying it’s easy to play, because it’s not. But it’s easier sometimes to play with these players. So in my opinion, I can have a very good connection with Ali. From what I can see we can play together easily."

“And Amoory today is the best playmaker in the country. Not only because of his technique - always he is looking for the good pass to the front, to make a good assist, to create something for the team.

"He doesn’t play to show off to the people. He’s playing for the team and is always looking to do something for the team. So, of course, I’m excited. I can’t wait for the matches.”

UAE face Malaysia and Indonesia in October before taking on Thailand and Vietnam a month later as they look to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the final phase of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

They are currently in fourth place in the group, five points behind leaders Vietnam having played one game less. Only the winners are guaranteed a berth in the next phase of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying, while the four best runners-up across the eight groups will also advance.

Tagliabue is one of three naturalised players to have joined Pinto’s squad, with Brazil-born duo Fabio De Lima (pictured above) and Caio Canedo (pictured below) also selected, and the former Al Wahda forward pointed out he has been warmly welcomed into the training camp in Al Ain.

“I’m really happy because everything is good: the training, the coach, his staff, the players,” he said. “They received me in a very good way."

“Most of the players speak with me and treat me like we've seen each other many times. Because one thing is to play against – you say ‘Hello’, ‘how are you?’ and finish – and another is when you meet with them and have to make a connection to work together.

“It’s not easy. But I’m very happy for this start, and as every training is going on I’m feeling more relaxed, more comfortable. It’s getting better and better.”

Tagliabue has also been impressed by the approach of former Colombia and Costa Rica coach Pinto as the UAE look to keep alive their hopes of a second FIFA World Cup appearance, and their first since qualifying for Italy in 1990.

“The coach has something I really like, which is he wants to work,” Tagliabue said. “He came here to teach us what he wants and we’re working towards that. I had many coaches in the past who say: ‘OK, I want to make high pressure’, but we don’t work on that, or they say we will play defensive and we don’t train for that either."

“What this coach has is he tells us what he wants, but in the same way we go to the pitch and work on that. He’s very professional, a very serious guy.

“I have a very good feeling for the future. I don’t want to put any illusion on the fans because it’s very difficult what we have in front, but to be honest I have a good feeling. I believe we will be a very, very difficult team on the pitch to play against. I really like the idea this coach has about football.”

Photos: UAE Football Association

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