DUBAI // The Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup draw has probably left a few UAE supporters downcast. With the home nation in the same group as Portugal and Uruguay, Marcelo Mendis' side have a tough task ahead of them. Mendis, however, remains optimistic. The UAE coach may not have been thumping his chest after Thursday's night's draw but he is confident of achieving their target of a semi-final place. "We have been here working together for three years now, sweating it out in 48 degrees," said the Brazilian.
"So just because I have got Portugal and Uruguay in my group now, should I say, khallas, finish? "Definitely not. We have to believe in ourselves and I have a lot of confidence in this team. I believe we still have a chance to go to the semi-finals, why not. "We have close to three months to work hard and we will do our best to achieve our goals." The task for Mendes and his side will be a difficult one. Portugal finished third in 2008 and were the runners-up of 2005. Uruguay were runners-up in 2006 and finished third the following year.
To the nay sayers, however, Mendes pointed out the fickleness of beach soccer. The 2005 champions France do not figure among the five European nations who have qualified for Dubai, while Mexico, the 2007 runners-up, have not made it to this tournament either. "In 2006, nobody expected a final between Brazil and Uruguay. In 2007, even fewer expected Mexico to reach the final. Also in 2005 Brazil did not reach the final," said Mendes.
"That is why beach soccer is different. Small teams, like us, Solomon Islands, Costa Rica or Nigeria, always have a chance. We just have to work hard." Joan Cusco, a member of the Fifa Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee, shared Mendes' optimism about UAE's chances at home. "Marcelo, who I have known for more than 10 years, is a very good coach," said Cusco, who conducted the draw ceremony. "I am sure he will give a hard time to Portugal and Uruguay. I am sure there will be a lot of worried people in Uruguay now, worried about playing UAE. It is not going to be easy for them.
"I have seen the UAE team play; they are one of the few teams in the world who play real beach soccer, not football. They know how to keep the ball in the air and move it around. "So for sure they have a good chance. They will have the home advantage with them as well." email@example.com