x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kermit leaps ahead of rival Khalil

The UAE's opening game of the Under 20 World Cup against South Africa was billed as a showdown between two of the most exciting talents at the tournament.

ALEXANDRIA // The UAE's opening game of the Under 20 World Cup against South Africa was billed as a showdown between two of the most exciting talents at the tournament. One side had Asia's best youth player, Ahmed Khalil, in their ranks, while the other boasted the highly-rated Kermit Erasmus, billed as South Africa's Wayne Rooney. The duel seemed headed in the UAE's direction as Khalil made a surge down the right in the fourth minute, outpacing two defenders along the way, before crossing for Ali Mabkhoot, who dragged his shot wide.

But that was as good as it got for the UAE player, who limped out with cramp in the 62nd minute. Feyenoord forward Kermit, on the other hand, scored both the goals for the South Africans before leaving the pitch 13 minutes from time with facial injury. The UAE coach Mahdi Ali admitted Khalil was not at his goal-scoring best, but insisted the young Al Ahli striker had played his part in a game that ended up all square in the end.

"I believe Ahmed Khalil did well and played his heart out," said Ali. "He was a constant threat, but was not lucky enough to score. He missed a lot of chances, but this is football. "Anyway, it is too early to evaluate individuals. We have just played the opening game of the World Cup. Let us be patient and make our assessments after a couple of games." The UAE's next opponents Honduras, who they take on tomorrow, made an impressive start to their challenge as they cruised past Hungary with a 3-0 win on Sunday.

Mario Martinez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, before adding a second in the 70th minute. Arnold Peralta completed the scoring six minutes from time. In Group E action, favourites Brazil got off to a triumphant start as they hammered Costa Rica 5-0 with Alan Kardec netting two, while Giuliano, Alex Teixeira and substitute Boaquita also scored. A Michael Rabusic strike and a penalty from substitute Tomas Pekhart saw Czech Republic beat 10-man Australia 2-1 in the same group.

James Holland scored Australia's consolation goal in stoppage time with a penalty. arizvi@thenational.ae