The UAE's disciplinary record will decide if they reach the second round of the Under 17 World Cup in Nigeria after their hopes of direct qualification were dashed with a 1-0 loss to the USA in their final group game last night. The defeat leaves the UAE level on three points with Brazil and Holland and with an identical goal record. The Fairplay rankings will now be used by Fifa today to determine which two of the three will progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.
The UAE, with five bookings, have one yellow card less than Brazil and the Netherlands and have committed a lot less fouls, and that could see them scrape through in the calculations. To complicate matters further, South Korea and Uruguay, who were both in action late last night, could join the trio in the fairplay mix. Jack McInerney scored the all-important goal for the US in the 35th minute, making the most of a fumble by the UAE goalkeeper Ahmad Shambih.
The UAE had an identical chance in the 69th minute after the USA goalkeeper Earl Edwards failed to collect Fahad Salim's fierce left-footer. Mohammad Sebil was on hand to collect the rebound, but he inexplicably shot over the ball. Needing just a draw to clinch an automatic second-round berth, the UAE looked more intent on getting maximum points, and they pressed the USA hard from the opening whistle. Mohammed Hussain gave Edwards an early work-out, forcing a corner in the second minute following a brilliant run down the middle by Hassan Yousuf.
The UAE had a lucky escape in the 23rd minute when the impressive Alex Shinsky hit the crossbar. Shambih was beaten, but the ball bounced to safety. The USA, however, were not to be denied for long and went ahead in the 35th minute. Shambih failed to collect a pile-driver from Nick Palodichuk and McInerney scored the rebound. As the Emiratis wilted in the heat after their early promise, the Americans grew stronger and had three subsequent opportunities, but Shambih did well to keep the scoreline 1-0 going into the break.
After the break, Hassan Yousuf broke clear inside the box, but he cannoned the ball way over to waste their best opportunity, while at the other end, a brilliant save from Shambih denied the USA from strengthening their lead in the 63rd minute. The Al Nasr teenager leapt high to his left to tip over a thunderous volley from Luis Gil and the UAE will now have a nervous wait to find out whether their tournament is over.