The UAE captain Bakhit Saad is still confident his side can advance to the knock-out stages of the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup in Marseille, despite losing to Argentina. The former Al Shabab striker has quickly become one of the most feared front-men in beach soccer, but he was thwarted by an inspired display from the goalkeeper Marcelo Salgueiro in Argentina's 5-2 win.
Now the Emirates have to beat Russia in the final match in Group C today if they are to go through to the quarter-finals alongside the South American team. "We didn't have the luck [against Argentina]," said Saad. "We still think we can get a result out of the Russians." Saad saw two spectacular overhead kicks turned away by the superb Salgueiro. The Argentine goalkeeper said: "Each player contributed to this success in their own way, and I'm pleased that I also played my part.
"It turned out to be a very difficult match, but we prepared really well for this competition and hope we'll go far." The UAE are playing at the Beach Soccer World Cup finals stage for the second successive year, having only formed a team for the first time three years ago. They failed to win any of their three group matches 12 months ago in Rio de Janeiro, so they could be deemed to have succeeded already in this tournament after their opening day triumph over Cameroon.
However, their Brazilian coach Marcelo Mendes has specified a place in the last eight as being his very minimum ambition. Asia's No1 side must win today's game against the unheralded Russians to advance. The Eastern European side claimed a 4-0 win over Cameroon - the side who the UAE thrashed 10-4 in their opening match - to set up the showdown with Saad's men. The Russia coach Nikolai Pisarev warned that his side are getting the hang of how to play on the sand, as he said: "The win over Cameroon gives us a last chance to make it into the quarter-finals.
"I get the feeling that the team is improving with every match, which was my original objective." Japan, who used to be Asia's dominant nation in beach soccer yet have had to play second fiddle to the UAE for the past two years, are out following an 8-1 defeat to the holders Brazil. If the UAE do win today, they are likely to play Brazil in their quarter-final on Thursday. Alexandre Soares, the coach of the defending champions, says his side are already thinking about the final.
He said: "I'm delighted with the result [against Japan] and even more so with the way we played. My team is gradually improving and put in a great performance, which is a good omen since our main aim is obviously to win the final." @Email: firstname.lastname@example.org