x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE futsal coach hails his new side's 'big heart'

After beating Turkmenistan, Padu is confident of winning one of two games remaining.

The UAE camp celebrated at Al Wasl complex.
The UAE camp celebrated at Al Wasl complex.

DUBAI // The UAE coach saluted the tenacity of his team after their winning debut in the AFC Futsal Championship last night.

The national side, formed less than 15 months ago, defeated the experienced Turkmenistan 3-1 in their opening Group A game to raise hopes of qualification to the knockout stages.

Yousif Mohammed opened the scores following a neat one-two with Wael Mohammed in the fifth minute, but Atayev Mergen equalised for Turkmenistan in the final minute of the first half.

With just over five minutes remaining, Bader Ibrahim regained the lead for the UAE and, as Turkmenistan searched for an equaliser, Abdulkarim Jamil shot into an empty goal in the final seconds to make it a comfortable win for the hosts.

"It is a very emotional moment for me," said UAE coach Paulo Eduardo De Jesus Pinho, who is commonly known as "Padu".

"We have worked together only for about a year and three months, and we have managed to start our Asia Cup campaign with a win.

"The boys showed a lot of tenacity and a big heart against a team, which has a lot of experience at this level and has appeared in the last five Asian championships. My players showed how important it is for them to play for the country and I am really proud of them."

The UAE have to win one of their two remaining matches to qualify for the last eight. Reaching the semi-finals will assure them of a place at the World Championships, which will be held in Thailand later this year.

The home side will take on Kyrgyzstan today before meeting group favourites Thailand tomorrow, but Padu said there will be no pressure on his side in those two matches.

"There would have been pressure on us if we had lost this game," he said. "Winning this game is really good for our confidence. We will try our best to win our next game as well, but it is very important that all of us understand we are a new side and this is the Asian Championship. It is not going to be easy."

There will be pressure on Turkmenistan, though, in their remaining two group matches. Their chances of qualifying for the second round hinged on winning this game and then surprising either Kyrgyzstan or Thailand, but this defeat leaves them with little hope.

"We have to bounce back quickly from this defeat and play a much stronger game [against Thailand today]," said Kanayev Guvanch, the Turkmenistan coach. "Our target was to win this game, but now we have to try and win the remaining matches."