Franz Beckenbauer, the German football legend, has backed the UAE to successfully defend the Gulf Cup in Oman. "Der Kaiser", who is in the UAE on holiday with his family, was a guest at the Al Wasl club on Tuesday night. The game was the UAE's final preparation before they leave for Muscat tomorrow, and Beckenbauer believes they acquitted themselves well after a slow start.
"Kuwait were the better side in the first 20 minutes and they had a few scoring opportunities," said the 63-year-old German. He added: "The UAE made a strong comeback and they took control of the game. They did, however, miss many chances. They should have been up by three goals in the first-half. "I was impressed with the performance of Abdulraheem Jumaa in the midfield and I liked the way the forwards played. They were positive and that is the sort of game I have always encouraged."
The UAE will face a strong challenge in Oman with virtually all the teams, except probably Yemen, in contention for the title. Beckenbauer admits he is not aware about the level of the other teams, but thinks the UAE have a good chance of retaining the title. "I am not very familiar with the level of the teams competing," said the German, who won the 1974 World Cup as captain and the 1990 World Cup as manager. "But from what I have seen of the UAE, they look a strong side capable of defending their title, even though they are playing away from home.
"The Gulf Cup is an exciting tournament and it contributes a lot to the development of the game in this region. So I hope for a good tournament in Oman and wish the UAE well." Beckenbauer has been a frequent visitor to the UAE and has been impressed with the changes over the years. "I have been coming here for 20 years," he said. "I am here now with my family for a holiday. "It is a fantastic place. Every time I come here I see something different. I enjoy coming here and renewing my close relationship with the many sports personalities of the country."
Beckenbauer, who is president of the Bayern Munich who play Al Jazira in a friendly in Abu Dhabi on Jan 10, was among a horde of dignitaries who attended the game, including Dr Hanif Hassan Ali, the Minister of Education, and Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development. firstname.lastname@example.org