DUBAI // The UAE coach Marcelo Mendes is confident his team can overcome the disappointment of the last time the national side faced Portugal and take the host nation to the knock-out phase of the Beach Soccer World Cup. The Europeans face the UAE on the opening day of the tournament on Monday. With matches against Solomon Islands and Uruguay to follow, the first game could well decide UAE's hopes of clinching a quarter-final berth from their group.
Despite the stresses any manager faces before a major tournament, Mendes is sure his side can achieve a better result than the 3-1 defeat they suffered at the Mundialito de Futebol de Praia in August against Portugal, one of the World Cup favourites. While he cannot stop himself from worrying, Mendes knows his opposite number will be thinking the same. "I cannot sleep," said the Brazilian, who has previously coached two of the UAE's Group A opponents, Portugal and Uruguay. "We start to think about Portugal - how we should play against them, how we can stop them. But, believe me, they will be thinking the same. They know we have a good team.
"We played against Portugal in August and they beat us 3-1, but it was not easy for them. They came to the match thinking they will beat us easily, but soon they realised how difficult it is. They had to run hard and do a lot to beat us. "Here, we are at home and they will have to run double. If they play at a normal pace, they will lose. "After that we have Solomon Islands and Uruguay. Let's see what happens. We are very confident. We are working hard and everything is OK in the team."
The UAE face Eric Cantona's French team today in a friendly. Yesterday, Japan dashed Iran's dream of qualifying for the finals with a 5-3 victory in the semi-finals of the Asian qualifiers in Dubai to confirm the No 1 Asian side's place among the 16 nations that will battle for the world title. Joining Japan in the World Cup are Bahrain, who defeated Oman 6-1 for their second appearance in the tournament. The winners of today's final between Japan and Bahrain will find themselves in Group D of the World Cup, alongside Brazil, Nigeria and Switzerland. The runners-up will join Spain, Ivory Coast and El Salvador in Group B. @Email:email@example.com