x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

U20 World Cup: UAE through to Round 2

The UAE's 1-0 victory over Honduras guarantees them a place in Round 2 of the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.

UAE's Abdulaziz Hussain, right, stops Honduras' Erick Andino during their  Fifa Under-20 World Cup match in Egypt.
UAE's Abdulaziz Hussain, right, stops Honduras' Erick Andino during their Fifa Under-20 World Cup match in Egypt.

A stunning first-half strike from Ahmed Khalil gave UAE a 1-0 win over Honduras in Alexandria, Egypt, on Wednesday night and assured them of a spot in the second round of the Fifa Under 20 World Cup. Khalil, prodigal in the opening game against South Africa, put the Whites ahead with a stunning free-kick in the 41st minute. The UAE defence then stood firm to keep the Central Americans out in the fourth Group F game, which finished with both teams a man short.

Honduras, needing just a point from this game to qualify for the second round after their 3-0 win over Hungary in the opening game, were content merely to try to keep the UAE out. They had a few shots at the goal, though, and were clearly unlucky in the 32nd minute when Mario Martinez's grounder was deflected into the right post by keeper Yousif Abdulrahman. That was the kind of luck UAE were seeking and nine minutes later they were in the lead courtesy of Khalil's brilliance. Earning a free-kick a few metres outside the box, the 2008 Asian youth player of the year curved the ball around the wall into the far corner, leaving the Honduras keeper, Francisco Reyes, stranded.

Khalil had an opportunity earlier too, in the 28th minute, but headed weakly into the keeper. His goal, however, more than made up for the lapses. The win took UAE to the top of the group with four points and they are now assured of a game in the second round, whatever the result of their final game against Hungary on Saturday. Hungary, who thumped South Africa 4-0 in the first match of the night, share the second spot in the group with Honduras on three points, while South Africa are bottom on one.

In the Whites' opening game, Mahdi Ali's team had staged an inspirational turnaround with two goals in injury time to share the honours in a 2-2 draw. Ali made two changes to the staring line-up that took the field against South Africa: Ahmed Ali, the hero of the first game, started alongside Khalil, while Habib al Fardan got a look-in ahead of Sultan al Menhali. Ahmed Ali, however, will miss the next game after getting a red card in the final second after a scuffle that also saw Reinieri Mayorquin sent off for pushing Sultan al Menhali down.

ARizvi@thenational.ae