Abdulrahman makes return to UAE squad for World Cup playoff

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May 23 (Reuters) - Former Asian player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman has been recalled to the United Arab Emirates national team for the first time in two-and-a-half years as the country prepares for their World Cup playoff against Australia next month.

Abdulrahman, who was named the continent's best player in 2016, was included in coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena's 30-man squad for the game against the Socceroos on June 7 in Doha after a return to form for club side Shabab Al Ahli.

The 30-year-old lost his place in the national team as a string of injuries, including a cruciate ligament rupture in 2018 while on loan with Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, took their toll on the creative midfielder.

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He last played for the UAE in the 1-0 loss in World Cup qualifying to Vietnam in November 2019 but has impressed in recent months, including leading Shabab Al Ahli into the knockout rounds of this year's Asian Champions League.

"I am 100 per cent ready because (reaching the World Cup) is everybody's dream, it is the dream of UAE," Abdulrahman said last month when asked about a possible recall.

"I hope everyone stands together, not only the players, the technical staff and the administration team, but also the media, fans, and everyone during this time -- because the two remaining matches can lead us to the World Cup finals.

"Of course, the first play-off against Australia will be difficult for sure, but with solidarity, we will be able to make the UAE fans happy."

The UAE will be looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since making their debut appearance at the tournament in Italy in 1990.

Arruabarrena's side will take on the Australians after the nations finished third in their respective groups in the third round of Asia's preliminaries.

The winner of the meeting at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium will advance to an intercontinental playoff on June 13 against Peru with a place in November's finals at stake.

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Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Martyn Herman

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