Van Marwijk fired as UAE coach for second time

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Bert van Marwijk has been fired as head coach of the UAE with two rounds of Asia’s World Cup preliminaries remaining.

The United Arab Emirates Football Association announced on social media on Saturday that the Dutchman, who led his home nation to the 2010 World Cup final, and the team’s entire technical staff had been dismissed.

The FA confirmed in a brief statement that the Dutchman and staff had been relieved of their duties 14 months into their second stint with the team.

“The decision came following a recommendation from the Committee for the national teams and technical affairs,” read a statement from the UAE FA. “A new head coach will be announced in the next few days.”

Van Marwijk was in his second spell with the UAE after returning to the role in December 2020.

His initial stint had run for eight months from March to December 2019 until he was fired following a loss to Qatar at the Gulf Cup.

The 69-year-old leaves with the UAE in third place in Group A of Asia’s World Cup qualifiers and still in the running for a place at the finals in Qatar via a pair of playoffs.

The UAE missed out on an automatic berth after Iran and South Korea confirmed their places at the finals last month by securing the top two places in the group.

However, third place in the standings guarantees a playoff against the third-placed team in Group B of Asia’s preliminaries, with the winners facing South American opposition in an intercontinental eliminator.

In December, the UAE had exited the Fifa Arab Cup at the quarter-final stage, beaten 5-0 by hosts Qatar. Van Marwijk’s position was understood to be in serious jeopardy then, but the FA’s newly appointed national teams and technical affairs committee later decided to retain him.

The next appointment will represent the UAE’s seventh new manager since Mahdi Ali’s five-year tenure ended in 2017.

Meanwhile, Abdul Ghani Shahad has been named as the new head coach of the Iraq men’s national team.

The 53-year-old replaces Montenegrin Zeljko Petrovic following Iraq’s poor results in Group A of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar.

After retiring as a player in 1999, the former defender coached Al Najaf before moving to several other clubs in Iraq.

Shahad also coached the Iraq U23 national team on several occasions, including the 2016 AFC U23 Championship where they finished third. He was also appointed as an interim coach for the senior side in 2016.
Iraq are fifth in Group A of the AFC Asian Qualifiers on five points with just two matches – against UAE and Syria next month – remaining.

The Syrian Football Association has announced the appointment of Ghassan Maatouk as head coach of the men’s national team.

Maatouk will be tasked with leading Syria in their remaining AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Group A matches against Lebanon and Iraq in March. Maatouk, 44, replaces Romanian Valeriu Tita.

Maatouk, a former Syrian international, played for Syrian Premier League club Al Wahda SC his entire career before moving into management with Al Muhafaza. He was an assistant coach under Fajr Ibrahim in the Syria national team in 2019.

He then steered Damascus giants Al Wahda to the Syrian Cup and the Syrian Super Cup in 2020.

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