x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Silver lining for youngsters

The UAE will face Venezuela on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals of the Under 20 World Cup.

The UAE's Habib Fardan, right, tries to win the ball from Hungary's Adam Simon.
The UAE's Habib Fardan, right, tries to win the ball from Hungary's Adam Simon.

ALEXANDRIA // The UAE will face Venezuela on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals of the Under 20 World Cup. The Emirates' 2-0 defeat to Hungary on Saturday also means that they must now move to Suez to play their next match. A win would have seen them top Group F and stay in Alexandria, something which Hungary will now enjoy.

However, by finishing second in the group, the Emirates avoided a last-16 clash with the Czech Republic, the losing finalists at the 2007 event in Canada and semi-finalists at last year's U19 European Championship. But Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, is not underestimating the South American debutants, who qualified for Egypt ahead of six-time champions Argentina. "Venezuela are a good side, and they have shown that by entering the last 16. We will work hard over the coming days to be ready for them, mentally and physically. Our target is to get a positive result and keep moving forward in the tournament."

Victory over Venezuela will set up a quarter-final match with the hosts or Costa Rica, and Ali was quick to acknowledge that missing the Czechs was no bad thing. "Everything happens for the good, But this not to say that we wanted to finish second in the group. We went into the game thinking only about a win and staying here in Alexandria," he said. "Before the kick off, I did not bother myself about who we are going to face in the round of 16, or plan for playing against any particular country. We wanted three points and did everything we could, but just came up against a better team on the night."

To reach the last eight, the UAE will have to show a major improvement after being undone by two goals in four minutes. Already assured of qualification and a bit short of purpose, the UAE were listless on the night, missing three clear chances before Liverpool's Krisztian Nemeth put the Hungarians ahead in the 19th minute after a swift counter- attack. A poor clearance in the 23rd minute allowed the Hungary captain Vladimir Koman to add a second goal. With a comfortable cushion behind them, Hungary then packed their defence and the UAE could barely get a shot in.

Complicating the UAE's cause to chase the game was having six players on yellow cards - meaning another booking and they would be out for the next game. Indeed, Abdulaziz Hussain picked up a card late in the game and will miss the Venezuela clash. "During the first 15-20 minutes, we lacked focus and Hungary were able to exploit that. It was difficult to come back after conceding those two goals," said Ali.

"We controlled the game after that and had the better of the ball possession, but were just not threatening enough and lacked effectiveness. "We certainly need a big improvement on this performance and I am sure you will see that. What you saw in this game is not the true level of our team and, God willing, we will show our real potential in the next match." Hungary will face the Czechs in their first second-round appearance in five attempts at youth World Cups. "We certainly deserved to win," said the delighted Hungary coach Sandor Egervari.

"The boys played really well and followed the game plan to perfection." On the UAE, Egervari added: "They were already assured of a place in the last 16 and that probably affected their motivation." In the other game in the UAE's group, South Africa beat Honduras 2-0 to set up a meeting with Ghana tomorrow. arizvi@thenational.ae