x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

One more chance to shine for UAE beach soccer team

Final World Cup tune-up is in Hungary and after the trip, UAE coach Mendes will finalise list of players that are going to World Cup in Tahiti next month, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Rami Abdullah Al Mesaabi, right, and the UAE beach soccer team will meet three other countries during a visit to Hungary in the coming days.  Antonie Robertson / The National
Rami Abdullah Al Mesaabi, right, and the UAE beach soccer team will meet three other countries during a visit to Hungary in the coming days. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // A couple of berths in the World Cup squad will be up for grabs as the UAE beach soccer team travel to Hungary for their final test before the big event in Tahiti next month.

The 12-member UAE squad leaves Friday for a four-nation tournament, where they will face fellow World Cup qualifiers Holland, the Czech Republic and the hosts in what will be three crucial matches before the coach Marcelo Mendes finalises his squad for the World Cup, set for September 18 to 28.

"The team is more or less decided," the Brazilian said. "I can say 90 per cent of the team is confirmed. I have to just check one or two players in Hungary now. I am giving them one more chance to prove themselves. We will see how they perform and then we will finalise our list."

The tournament in Hungary will be the UAE's final competitive event before they travel to Tahiti early next month. The team will play two friendly matches there – against Paraguay on September 12 and Brazil two days later – before opening their World Cup campaign against Tahiti on September 19.

Two days later, the UAE will meet two-time World Cup runners-up Spain before completing their Group A engagements against Concacaf champions United States on September 23.

"This is the last tournament for us before the World Cup, so it is really important for us," Mendes said. "It is an opportunity for the players to show what they are capable of.

"The players know that this is the time to focus and concentrate, in both practise and the games that we play. What we do in Hungary and then in the two friendly matches, it will be the same thing that we do in our first game at the World Cup."

The team has been training daily at the Mamzar Beach Park for the last few months. They also took part in tournaments in July, finishing third in the Friendship Cup in Belarus and second at the Asian Confederation Cup in China.

"The preparation has been going well, as per our plans," Mendes said. "Everything is under control. So I expect a good performance from the team in Hungary. I think it is a good time to show a better performance than what we gave in Belarus and China. We will try to play our best and get the best possible result."

"Holland are in the World Cup as well and the Czech Republic played in Spain [in the Euro Beach Soccer League]. Hungary is a team we have played many times. They are a good side. So this tournament will be really good for us."

As Mendes finalises his 12 for Tahiti, Kamal Ali should be one of the first names on the list after his impressive performance in the Hungarian league. Turning out for Energia, the young Al Ahli striker forced his way into the starting line-up in a team, which boasts stars such as Switzerland's Stephan Meier, and helped them finish third.

Mendes was happy with Kamal's performance and hopes his success – and that of players like Karim Ali, Rami Abdullah and Humaid Jamal – in foreign leagues will inspire other UAE players.

"When the players are invited to play in different leagues, it motivates the other players because they are also looking for a chance to play outside," the coach said. "It also shows that our players have the potential to play at different clubs and in different leagues.

"So it is very important for us that players like Kamal, Ali Karim, Rami Abdullah and Humaid Jamal can play outside."

UAE beach soccer fixtures

Upcoming tournament in Hungary

Sunday vs Czech Republic

Monday vs Holland

Tuesday vs Hungary

Friendly matches in Tahiti

September 12 vs Paraguay

September 14 vs Brazil

World Cup in Tahiti

September 19 vs Tahiti

September 21 vs Spain

September 23 vs USA

arizvi@thenational.ae

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