x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Asian beach soccer final: UAE up for intimidating reception from China

Coach Mendes wants one more show of commitment from players despite pressure of being up against hosts. Amith Passela reports.

The UAE missed out on a few scoring chances but managed to beat Australia in their final group game yesterday in China. Courtesy Beach Soccer World Wide
The UAE missed out on a few scoring chances but managed to beat Australia in their final group game yesterday in China. Courtesy Beach Soccer World Wide

Marcelo Mendes, the UAE coach, believes Sunday's meeting with China in the Asian Football Confederation Beach Soccer final will be another acid test for his players to deal with the pressure of facing a home team.

"It will be again good to play against the host team to see how to deal with the pressure," the Brazilian said after his team overcame Australia 3-0 on Saturday.

The UAE play hosts Tahiti in the Beach Soccer World Cup opener on September 19 and Mendes believes the pressure from the fans as a critical factor.

"We played against the hosts Belarus in front of more than 1,000 home fans [at a tournament last week] and won the play-off match for third place in the friendly tournament last month and expect a more intimidating reception in China," Mendes said.

China crushed Thailand 6-1 to top their group – which was reduced to two teams when Palestine were unable to travel to the tournament – but the UAE coach was upbeat of his team's chances.

"We were in control in all three periods against Australia," he said after their final group game. "The Australians had only one shot against our goalkeeper Mohammed Abdullah while we missed several scoring opportunities in the first two periods.

"We managed to score three times in the final period and win pretty well at the end. The players maintained the calmness built from a consistent defence, good fitness and good control in attacks to score. I'm very happy about the commitment and power the players showed in this game.

"China are strong and will have the home advantage but we are very hopeful we can take the players can take this momentum forward to fight against China for the cup."

Abbas Ali gave the UAE the vital breakthrough early in the third period and the strikes from Haitham Sabah and Kamal Ali sealed the victory over Australia.

The UAE overcame Vietnam 8-3 in their opener while Australia beat the east Asians 7-2.

China edged out Thailand 4-3 on the opening day in a reformatted Group A, which saw the two teams play each other twice with Palestine withdrawn. The UAE have been drawn in the same group as Tahiti at the World Cup, the Concacaf champions United States and the two-time runners-up Spain.

In three previous appearances at the championship the UAE have failed to make it beyond the group stage, but Mendes is confident his current squad has the quality and the will to make it to the knockout stages in Tahiti.

"It will be our best chance to go beyond the group stage," Mendes, in his sixth year as the national team coach, said. "Our preparations have gone perfectly well with a few more competitions to play before the World Cup."

The UAE play a four-team friendly tournament between Ukraine, Iran and the hosts, Hungary, on August 15-21. They then head to Tahiti one week early to play two friendly games before their first World Cup game.

The UAE made their debut in the World Cup in Brazil in 2007 and were winless in a group that consisted of Argentina, France and Nigeria. In France in 2008, they beat Cameroon 10-4, but lost their other group games to Argentina and Russia.

The UAE hosted the championship in 2009. They registered a solitary win over the Solomon Islands 7-1, but went down to Portugal 5-7 and Uruguay 0-4. However, 2011 saw the team fail to qualify for the tournament in Rome.

apassela@thenational.ae

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