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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

UAE left to rue lack of match practice as Intercontinental Cup hopes fade

Hosts will need to beat world champions Brazil, who are on a 44-game winning run, to stand any chance of reaching the semi-finals.

Egypt, red, managed to edge out the UAE to keep their hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.
Egypt, red, managed to edge out the UAE to keep their hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.

UAE manager Mohammed Al Maazmi has blamed a lack of match practice for the national team’s tough start to the Intercontinental Cup beach soccer tournament.

A second defeat in as many games on Wednesday all but ended the UAE’s hopes of progressing to the last four stage at Marasi Business Bay in Dubai.

A 4-3 defeat to Egypt, after a late strike from Shika, followed a 6-4 loss to former world champions Portugal in the UAE’s Group A opener. It means the hosts have to beat Brazil – 4-1 winners over Portugal – to stand any chance of reaching the semi-final stage.

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More likely, Egypt and Portugal will battle it out to join Brazil in the last-four.

“We lacked match-practice as we didn’t play in any competitions for months after the World Cup in Bahamas in May,” Al Maazmi said.

“I think we played pretty well under the circumstances. We gave Portugal and Egypt a good run. I must say we almost won, but for the goals we conceded late in both the games.”

Haitham Al Kaabi put the UAE ahead when he prodded in the opener from close range with 17 seconds on the clock but Egypt were soon level after a side-footed finish from Hatem Atef.

The visitors then took the lead courtesy of Mohamed Aly Hassan before UAE captain Walid Mohammed headed home to level the match.

The captivating contest then swung in the UAE’s favour after Hasham Al Muntaser scored to make it 3-2, only for Hassane Hussein to pull level for Egypt.

It was then left for Shika’s wonder goal to settle the result in favour of Egypt.

Meanwhile, Brazil sent out an ominous warning by claiming a comfortable win over Portugal to extend their winning record to 44 games.

Rodrigo scored the first and the last goals, with Datinha and Fernando also on target.

Madjer pulled one back for Portugal at 2-1 but that was as close it got against the reigning Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup winners.

In Group B, Russia continued their perfect start by edging out Paraguay to claim one of the semi-final berths.

Boris Nikonorov put the Europeans champions ahead before Edgar Barreto levelled with a retaken free-kick for Paraguay.

However, parity proved short-lived as Artur Paporotnyi regained the lead for Russia with a header 85 seconds from time.

Iran clinched their second victory of the tournament with a resounding 4-1 win over Mexico to set up a top of the group clash with Russia.

After two tight periods, Iran pulled clear in the last 12 minutes as Amirhosein Akbari, Moslem Mesigar and Ali Mirshekari completed the victory to keep Iran on course for their first Dubai title since 2013.

Both sides showed attacking intent in the opening period but it took until after the break for the deadlock to be broken when Iran goalkeeper Peyman Hosseini opened the scoring.

Hosseini beat his opposite number with a fine strike from distance, although with just over a minute left of the opening period, the Iran stopper was beaten by an unfortunate own goal from Akbari.

Mesigar regained the lead when he fired high into the roof of the net before Mohammed Moradi almost extended the lead when his free-kick grazed the top of the crossbar.

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