x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE beaten by well-backed Iran in beach soccer

UAE coach Marcelo Mendes dejected after semi-final exit and lack of support for national team in Dubai, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

Iran, in white, did well following the early stages of the semi-finals in Dubai when the UAE were in control. Jake Badger for The National
Iran, in white, did well following the early stages of the semi-finals in Dubai when the UAE were in control. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // If you were at the Dubai International Marine Club on Friday night, you probably would have struggled to fathom which of the two teams in the first semi-final of the Intercontinental Cup was the home side.

Dressed in white, on one side, were Iran and their fans had packed two sides of the stands, making a din louder than the blaring speakers. They had come with huge drums and vuvuzelas. “Iraan, Iraan.” they chanted in unison.

The other team, dressed in red, were the hosts UAE. And, as is sometimes seen at events featuring the national team, support was scant. A few fans were scattered across the stadium, but they made no effort to challenge the Iran fans on the decibel scales.

The lack of home support, however, did not perturb the men in red, and perhaps motivated them. They went toe-to-toe with a team who had beaten mighty Russia and Brazil in the group stages.

The UAE controlled the flow in the goalless opening period and the score was still 0-0 after the second 12 minutes. Adel Ali broke the deadlock in the sixth minute of the third period, putting the hosts ahead.

But Iran replied within a second. Mostafa Kiani struck from the following kick-off and a spontaneous scream shattered the silence that had fallen in the stands after the UAE goal. A minute later, Mohammadali Mokhtari put the Iranians ahead with an acrobatic finish and that proved to be enough for them to book a place in the final.

“This is one problem we have here,” said Marcelo Mendes, the UAE coach, referring to a lack of support for the home team.

“Once I went to watch a football match between the UAE and Iran at Al Nasr club and 90 per cent of the fans were Iranians. I don’t know why the people in the UAE don’t like to support their teams, particularly here in Dubai. In Abu Dhabi, you can see the stadiums full when the national team play there.”

The coach also struggled to explain the result, given his team’s battling performance on the night.

“The way we lost the game, I don’t have the words to express my feelings,” he said. “I guess it’s about luck. We scored with only six minutes remaining and Iran scored immediately after.

“We played a very good game and the players did not deserve this result for their efforts. If we had drawn the game and gone to penalties, that would have been more fair. Unfortunately, Iran are a team going through a good moment and they had the luck, as well.”

The Iran coach Marco Octavio de Cerqueira, however, suggested luck had little to do with the result. “I believe Iran deserved to be in the final because we showed our potential against Russia, Brazil and Italy in the group matches,” he said.

Having beaten Russia in a penalty shoot-out in their opening group game, Iran will meet the two-time defending champions once again in Saturday night’s final. The world champions defeated Switzerland 11-10 in the night’s other semi-final. The world champions were deadlocked at 9-9 with Switzerland in regulation time in a thrilling second semi-final. Anatoliy Peremitin scored five for the winners. Dejan Stankovic scored six for the Swiss.

Brazil, meanwhile, will face Italy in the play-off for fifth and sixth place today, while Mexico and Morocco will play for seventh and eighth.

The Brazilians defeated Morocco 5-3 in the classification matches, with Mauricinho scoring twice for the winners, while Palmacci Paolo scored a hat-trick as the Italians edged Mexico 5-4.

arizvi@thenational.ae