DUBAI // The UAE failed in their bid to make the second round of the AFC Futsal Championship, but a team official believes the sport has a bright future following their maiden appearance in the continental event.
The UAE's campaign came to an end Sunday night with the 4-2 defeat against Thailand. They had started the tournament with a 3-1 win over Turkmenistan, but lost 3-1 to Kyrgyzstan in the following game.
"The biggest benefit to come out this tournament is that we now know where we stand among Asia's leading nations," said Mohammed Al Marzouqi, UAE's assistant coach. "We can use this experience to plan our journey forward.
"The players have gained a lot from playing in this tournament. We played against some very good team like Thailand and we managed to score twice against them. We can build on this experience.
"We also hope hosting this tournament will lead to a junior futsal league, for the Under 16, the U14 and even the U12. Once we have those leagues in place, we will have a big pool of players coming through and ready for international duty."
The UAE needed to win in Sunday night's game to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the last eight, and they made the right start with Abdulkarim Jamil putting them ahead after just 50 seconds.
But Apiwat Chaemcharoen, Jirawat Sornwichian, Kritsada Wongkaeo and Suphawut Thueanklang all scored for Thailand before Jamil got a consolation goal in the final minute.
The win helped Thailand finish the group with three wins from three games, but Victor Hermans, the coach, was far from impressed by their performance.
"Our weak point is we don't control the game," he said. "The attitude is too relaxed in my opinion and that's why we make it difficult for ourselves.
"With the talent we have, and with all due respect to the UAE, we should have controlled this game from the beginning to the end. The main problem is the players need to understand we need to go one step higher and that is something I will be working on in the coming period."
Summing up the tournament, the UAE coach Paulo Eduardo Padu, who was sent into the stands for arguing with the match officials, said: "I think we have shown people that we are serious. In the 15 months that we have been together, we have achieved a good level and I think we managed to show that in our first appearance on the continental stage.
"We had one win, but we kept fighting in the other two matches and showed great spirit. I also hope the players learnt from watching these top foreign players and coaches."
KUWAIT'S STRENGTH SHOCKS COACH
Pazos Mandez Jose Maria, the Uzbekistan coach, has been surprised by Kuwait's performance in the AFC Futsal Championship, but said the Gulf state deserve their top position in Group D.
"I always knew that this would be the toughest group from the start," Maria said.
Placed in a group with Uzbekistan, the 2010 finalists, China and Indonesia, Kuwait started their campaign with a 1-1 draw with the Uzbeks.
They beat Indonesia 9-3 in the next game and then trumped China 5-0 on Sunday to finish ahead of Maria's team on goal difference.
The win made sure Kuwait, who finished fourth in 2003, would avoid Iran in the quarter-finals.
They have a game against the Group C runners-up Australia instead.
That leaves Uzbekistan to face the might of Team Melli, who have won 10 of the previous 11 AFC Futsal Championships.
"It is true this is a surprise, but they played three difficult games and did not lose any match," Maria said.
"This means they deserve their spot. I know their coach [Fonseca Cilleros] and I know the work they have been putting in over the last two months.
"I know the results they got in Spain in the last two weeks and I knew they were going to be a very difficult team. But yes, you didn't expect them to finish at the top of the group. I don't think even Kuwait expected that.
"The other day, I was having coffee with the coach of Kuwait and even he didn't expect this.
"But they did a really good job winning the group by a really big goal difference. So we can only say congratulations to them."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE