Despite a sterling second period comeback, the UAE kicked off the 2013 Beach Soccer World Cup with a 3-2 defeat to hosts Tahiti in Papeete this morning.
The Emirati team started off nervously but could have taken the lead when Hasan Ali Al Hammadi’s shot was spectacularly saved by Jonathan Torohia, the Tahiti goalkeeper, after four minutes. A minute later at the other end, Mohamed Al Jasmi saved twice in quick succession to deny the home team.
It was only a brief respite however, Raimoana Bennett giving Tahiti the lead in the sixth minute. Al Jasmi was much the busier of the two keepers and the second goal inevitably arrived in the 10th minute through the excellent Teva Zaveroni.
The second period started as the first had ended, with Raimana Li Fung Kuee giving Tahiti a 3-0 lead. With top scorer Ali Karim starved of any chances, the UAE were left facing humiliation.
A scrappy goal by Al Hammadi in the 20th minute transformed the match. A minute later Haitham Al Kaabi sidefooted brilliantly from Al Jasmi’s flick and volley. Suddenly the UAE were in the ascendancy and finished the period the stronger of the two teams.
In the last period the UAE continued to apply the pressure and came close through volleys by Ali Karim and Rami Al Mesaabi. As the minutes ticked down they became more desperate and resorted to long-range shots, but Tahiti stood firm.
At the final whistle, the home players were delighted with the 3-2 win, but the UAE players could be proud of their comeback after being outplayed in the first period.
The UAE face Spain next, who had earlier beaten the USA 5-4, and almost certainly need a win to stay in the competition.