"It was like a thriller. Alfred Hitchcock could probably not have written a better story than this game," said Jan Versleijen, the Australia Under 16 coach, after seeing his side score twice in the last eight minutes of yesterday's quarter-final before an extra-time winner shattered UAE hearts.
The Emirates youngsters were 2-0 up and seemingly through to the semi-finals of the Asian U16 Championship in Uzbekistan yesterday.
But Corey Brown pulled one back for Australia after 82 minutes and Giancarlo Gallifuoco struck the equaliser with virtually the last kick off the game to send the match into extra time. Then Jesse Makarounas nipped in front of a UAE defender after 99 minutes and stabbed home from close range to seal a dramatic 3-2 win for Australia. Defeat came with another blow for the UAE as they missed out on a ticket to next year's Under 17 World Cup as a result.
Bader Ahmed, the UAE coach, felt his side's hard-earned victory in their final group game over Iraq on Friday took its toll on his players.
Australia had the luxury of being able to rest their players in their last group game, having already secured qualification.
"The players did their best and they were crying and we were all affected by this. This is football and it is hard for the UAE players and fans," Ahmed was quoted as saying on the Asian Football Confederation website.
Yousuf Saeed and Abdulla Moosa had given the UAE a 2-0 lead at half time before Australia's fightback.
"The moment it was 2-1 was one of the best moments of the tournament," Versleijen added. "After coming from behind then I think you have a mental advantage in extra time."
* Compiled by Amith Passela