x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE coach welcomes tough test ahead of beach soccer world qualifiers

Marcelo Mendes expects his team to make the last four of the Intercontinental Cup again after being drawn in the same group as Russia, the champions.

DUBAI // The UAE beach soccer coach Marcelo Mendes expects his team to make the last four of the Intercontinental Cup again after being drawn in the same group as Russia, the champions.

The UAE finished fourth last year, pipped on penalties by Switzerland in the third-place play-off after losing 2-0 to Brazil in the semi-finals.

For this year's edition, which will be held at the Dubai Festival City from October 30 to November 3, the UAE have been drawn alongside Russia, the world and European champions, the Oceania champions Tahiti and the USA, the Concacaf representative.

Brazil, who lost to Russia in last year's final, have been drawn in Group B alongside Switzerland, Nigeria and Japan.

Mendes was pleased with the draw and said: "If you ask me, I prefer to play Russia in the group stages than meet them in the semi-finals. They are a strong team. We will play two friendly games against them on October 25 and 26. That will give us a chance to learn, know how they are playing.

"Tahiti are improving a lot. Last week they played Switzerland in a friendly game and they won 6-5 I think. And the USA, they will be a surprise. They don't play many tournaments during the year, but we have to respect them, go inside the field and play 100 per cent. The players are confident and ready to make a good job again this year."

The UAE have been training at the Mamzar Beach Park and will play three friendly matches against Azerbaijan towards the end of their training camp before taking a break. On October 21, the players will return to a camp leading up to the tournament.

Mendes will be using the tournament to gauge his new players ahead of the World Cup qualifiers next year.

"It's not 100 per cent confirmed yet, but in January we have our big challenge - the World Cup qualification - and that is our target. So these games will give me a good idea about the players."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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