Having started brightly with a win, the UAE bowed out with defeats first to Germany and last night to South Korea in the four-team Under 19 friendly tournament. A defensive blunder by Rashid Hassan as early as in the eighth minute cost them their final game against the Koreans, who emerged as the winners with three wins, at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium last night. Lee Jong Ho moved with lightning speed to make a steal from under the feet of Hassan before firing it past Talal Mohammed for the early goal, which was enough for the 1-0 result. They won the other two games by similar scores over Germany and Egypt.
The UAE pressed hard and Jamal Ibrahim even managed to get one in the back of the net only to be ruled out offside. No Dong Geon, the Korean stopper made an excellent save to deny Salem Saleh, blocking a bullet from the top edge box in the 25th minute. And Hassan's effort from 12 yards went agonisingly wide of the near post 11 minutes later. "It is always good to win every game you play but it is not the results we were after from this tournament," said Juma Rabea, the UAE coach. "We played three strong teams and I am pretty satisfied of the overall performance.
"There is always room to improve and this is what we will be working in the next few months. The results from this tournament were very close. We scored once to win and conceded two in the other two in defeat. "Of course we created quite a few chances but couldn't score in this game. And the goal we conceded was due to a silly mistake. These are the areas we will have to improve. Korea were well organized in defence and having scored early they wanted to preserve the lead, which they did pretty well."
"All three teams we played against are of high technical skills and they are very well organized both, in attack and defence. It is never easy to win against such teams. This entire exercise is for us to learn from our mistakes. "We tried out different combinations and provided as many playing opportunities to everyone in the squad." Rabea's squad will travel to Italy and Germany for their summer camps as they prepare for the title defence of the Asian Championship at the Zibo Sports Complex in China's Shandong Province from October 3 to 17.
"We have six months from now to prepare and have a schedule drawn up until we travel to China," said Rabea. "We have friendlies lined up during our camp in Italy in three weeks, and then we return home for a break, and back to Germany in July. "I am happy with the progress of my players and I hope they will be on top of their game when we are in China." The UAE are the defending champions having won their maiden continental title defeating Uzbekistan 2-1 in the final in Saudi Arabia in 2008. The team, in the following year, went beyond their expectations to reach the last eight in the Fifa U20 World Cup in Egypt.
* Compiled by Amith Passela