Neill makes Al-Jazira debut

Neill makes Al-Jazira debut

By Michele Tossani

Australian defender Lucas Neill made his debut for the UAE champions Al Jazira in the International Friendly Football Tournament match against Syria’s Al Ittihad this week.

Lucas Neill in his Al Jazira debut

He is expected to be a big boost for Al Jazira. The team was coached by Hugo Broos, new head coach Franky Vercauteren’s assistant.

“We want to see the players and analyse their strengths and see how and where they fit into our plan for the season ahead,” Broos said.

Neill played as centre-back alongside Saleh Basheer. Al Jazira signed the Australian captain to fill the Asian player spot on their roster after the 3+1 rule was introduced this season. Neill’s decision to sign with the UAE champions is part of his plan to lead the Socceroos to the 2014 World Cup.

Australia coach Holger Osieck already said he is comfortable with his captains choice to play in UAE, despite not rating highly Middle East football. While many are questioning the level of football in the gulf, it could be an error to underestimate the UAE championship level and strength. Here, there are a lot of good players and coaches. And Neill will be tested by many good strikers, such as Frenchman David Trezeguet, the former Juventus forward, who is believed to be close to becoming the latest big name to join the league after signing an one-year contract with Baniyas.

This week also saw another big debut - Diego Maradona made his debut as manager of Al Wasl.

For Maradona, it’s his fourth stint as first team head coach, after experiences with Textil Mandiyu in 1994, Racing Club the following year and Argentina national side from November 2008. Maradona won his first game as Al Wasl defeated Ittihad Kalba 3-1.

Diego has drawn a lot of attention by the fans but he was not the only attraction of the match. Argentine Mariano Donda, Uruguayan Juan Manuel Olivera, and Chilean Edson Puch, the new foreign singnings, also made their debut for Maradona’s side. Donda, a former Serie A’s player with Bari, is a holding midfielder, while Puch is a left wing and Olivera a forward.

Olivera and Donda played 76 minutes and Uruguayan striker also scored a goal. At his first press conference, Maradona pointed out that he wants young but experienced players that can play at a high level. All three South American players came to UAE with plenty of years ahead of them.

You can follow Michele on twitter @MicheleTossani

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