DUBAI // Marcelo Mendes has warned his UAE side they will need to improve markedly before they host the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai next year. The Brazilian coach of the national team had high hopes for his budding side ahead of the ongoing edition of the competition in Marseille. Even though the UAE FA only put together a beach soccer team three years ago, they have quickly established themselves as an up-and-coming force in the game.
Their status on the sand far exceeds that of their celebrated counterparts in the more recognised game played on grass. Having won the Asian World Cup qualifying competition for the past two years - each of which were staged in Dubai - they are firmly established as the continent's No 1 side. Their success has been due, in large part, to the appointment of Mendes who was previously in charge of Uruguay among other nations.
The Rio-born coach was snapped up last year, with the long-term aim of making the side competitive at the 2009 Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup, which had just been confirmed as coming to Dubai. The UAE did manage to break their finals duck: having not won a match in Rio last time round, they claimed their first-ever finals win by demolishing Cameroon 10-4 in their opener this time round. However, they failed to deliver on his aim of reaching the quarter-final stage, after losing out first to an experienced Argentina side, then, surprisingly, 5-0 to Russia in their final group match.
That defeat sealed their early exit, and Mendes admitted his side had under-achieved by failing to beat the unheralded Eastern European side. He said: "I'm very frustrated because I was expecting more from my players in this tournament. We committed far too many errors to achieve anything and we need to improve before we host the World Cup next year." Egor Shaykov, the Russia forward, compounded Mendes' disappointment by admitting that his side, who are still considered novices on the sand, had been below their best.
He said: "We were extremely nervous and struggled to get going. The heat made it difficult for us too but, even so, we're delighted we kept our shape and put a few more goals away. It is a good sign." The UAE were at least afforded the consolation of being the best performing side from Asia. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org