x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE beach soccer team is knocking on the door

UAE beach soccer coach Marcelo Mendes is optimistic about the team reaching the knockout round of Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup after paired with Tahiti, USA and Spain, writes Amith Passela.

Goalkeeper Mohammed Hamza and the UAE beach football team will host Belarus and Oman in a friendly tournament this week. Jeff Topping / The National
Goalkeeper Mohammed Hamza and the UAE beach football team will host Belarus and Oman in a friendly tournament this week. Jeff Topping / The National

Marcelo Mendes, the UAE beach football team coach, is upbeat about his team's chances of reaching the knockout stage of the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup following Thursday's draw in Papeete, Tahiti.

The UAE were placed in Group A along with championship hosts Tahiti, USA, and Spain, the European champions.

"It is good draw for us, as I see Spain as the toughest team we meet," the Brazilian said. "We have previously won against Tahiti twice, in the Intercontinental Cup. We are hopeful against the USA.

"So the draw gives us an excellent opportunity to reach the knockout round.

"Group C and D look very, very tough, with some of the strongest teams battling for the top two spots to reach the knockout round. So we are quite fortunate to have a good draw."

The UAE's match against the hosts will open the tournament, set for September 18-28. The team has met Tahiti twice in the Intercontinental Cup.

"We know them quite well as an opponent," Mendes said. "Spain would be the team that we all have to beat in this group."

Russia, the defending champions, were drawn alongside Japan, Paraguay and Ivory Coast in Group D.

Brazil, the four-time champions, have a tougher challenge after being pitted alongside Iran, Senegal and Ukraine in Group C.

"I don't think we will ever have a better opportunity to reach the knockout round," Mendes said.

"Yet, we will have to keep working hard and take one game at a time. The players are ready and they now have a lot of experience. We also have a bigger squad to choose from.

"We started a UAE league this year and have received very good support from the Dubai Sports Council and the federation. We have good schedule in the lead-up for the World Cup. It is a matter of preparing from now."

Mendes's team kick off their preparation with a friendly tournament between the UAE A and B teams, Belarus and Oman, from June 6-13 in Dubai.

They travel to Belarus for an international tournament that includes Turkey, Holland, Ukraine, Iran and the host Belarus.

They then head to China for their Asian Football Confederation Cup defence July 12-14, before participating in a four-team friendly tournament between Ukraine, Iran and the hosts, Hungary, on August 15-21.

"We will travel to Tahiti one week early to play two friendly games before our first match in the competition against the championship host," Mendes said.

The Brazilian is in his sixth year as coach of the national team. The UAE made their debut in the World Cup in Brazil in 2007 and were winless in a group that consisted Argentina, France and Nigeria.

In France in 2008, they beat Cameroon 10-4, but lost their other group games to Argentina and Russia.

The UAE hosted the championship in 2009. They registered a solitary win over the Solomon Islands 7-1, but went down to Portugal 5-7 and Uruguay 0-4. However, 2011 saw the team fail to qualify for the tournament in Rome.

UAE friendly tournament fixtures
at Mamzar Beach Park, Dubai

Saturday
UAE B v Belarus, 5.30pm
UAE v Oman, 6.30pm

Sunday
UAE B v Oman, 5.30pm

Tuesday
UAE v Belarus, 5.30pm
UAE B v Oman, 6.30pm

Wednesday
UAE v Oman, 6.30pm

World Cup information
in Papeete, Tahiti, from September 18 to 28. The top two teams in each group make the quarter-finals.

Group A Tahiti, United Arab Emirates, Spain, USA
Group B Holland, OFC qualifier, Argentina, El Salvador
Group C Brazil, Iran, Senegal, Ukraine
Group D Russia, Japan, Paraguay, Ivory Coast

The remaining qualifier will be the Oceania (OFC) qualifying tournament winner in August.

apassela@thenational.ae

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