BAHRAIN'S senior men's national football team formally begin their preparations tonight for their upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifying match against Qatar on March 22.
The nationals are set to play Lebanon in an international friendly tomorrow as they gear up for the home qualifier.
National team head coach Gabriel Calderon of Argentina named a 25-player squad last night that will come together today for training at the Bahrain Football Association premises in Riffa.
The Bahrainis also begin a closed camp at the Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel in the Diplomatic Area.
Tomorrow's friendly will be the national team's lone tune-up before taking on their Qatari rivals at home next week.
The players Calderon has called on include just two of the kingdom's overseas-based internationals, namely goalkeeper Ebrahim Lufthallah and defender Mohammed Hussain, who ply their trade in Oman and Saudi Arabia, respectively.
The rest of the team includes Faouzi Aaish, Sayed Mohammed Jaffar and Sayed Dhiya Saeed of Muharraq Club; Abdulwahab Al Malood, Abdulla Al Hazza, Mahmood Alojaimi and Ali Illumina of Al Hidd; Sami Hossaini, Abdulwahab Ali and Abdulla Saleh of Busaiteen; Sayed Shubar Alawi, Saad Al Amer and Abdulla Mubarak of Riffa;
Sayed; Mohammed Makki, Masoud Qambar and Hani Badrani of Manama; Ebrahim Saad and Mohammed Rumaihi of Bahrain Club; Sayed Ali Isa and Sayed Reza Isa of Malkiya; and Al Shabab's Ahmed Jaffar, Al Ettihad's Ahmed Mirza and Ali Khalil.
Foreign-based professional players Hussain Baba, Abdulla Ismail Omar and Ismaeel Abdullatif have also been called up by Calderon, but they are only expected to be available after Bahrain's friendly with Lebanon.
Tomorrow's tune-up is also a part of Lebanon's preparations for their Asian Cup qualifier against Thailand, also on March 22.
Bahrain's friendly will be played at the National Stadium in Riffa.
The Bahrainis and Qataris are in group 'D' of the qualifiers along with Yemen and Malaysia; while Lebanon, Thailand, Kuwait and Iran make up group 'B'.
The Bahrainis have gotten their Asian Cup qualifying campaign off to a good start following a 2-0 win in their away match with Yemen last month in Sharjah.
Lebanon, on the other hand, were thrashed by Iran in Tehran 5-0, and they will be looking to bounce back against the Thais.
There are five qualifying groups for this stage. Only the top two teams from each group, plus the best-third place team overall, move on to fill 11 of the 16 slots in the Asian Cup finals.
Group 'A' features Jordan, Syria, Oman and Singapore; Group 'C' comprises Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia against one another; and Group 'E' includes Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and recently crowned Gulf Cup champions the UAE.
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