x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE impress in France

The Under 20 team narrowly miss out on the semis in Toulon and the tournament was valuable experience ahead of the World Cup.

Argentina's goalscorer Lucas Trecarichi, centre, slips past the UAE's Abdulaziz Albalooshi, left, and Fahad Sebil Ibrahim.
Argentina's goalscorer Lucas Trecarichi, centre, slips past the UAE's Abdulaziz Albalooshi, left, and Fahad Sebil Ibrahim.

The UAE Under 20 team may have failed to progress beyond the group stage in the Toulon tournament, but they left the French city in good spirit after an impressive preparation for September's Fifa Youth World Cup in Egypt. The UAE missed out on the semi-finals by a whisker after Argentina held them to a 1-1 draw and Holland scored a late equaliser to also draw 1-1 with Egypt on Sunday. The UAE and Holland finished joint second, but the Dutch went through to the last four, along with group winners Argentina, on the head-to-head rule because they beat the UAE 1-0 on Friday.

The coach Mahdi Ali reiterated that winning the tournament was not his aim and felt the experience of playing in a strong competition would help the team in their build up for the Fifa Youth World Cup. Ali, who led them to the Asian Youth title last November, said: "This competition provided us with the opportunity to try out several combinations in the three games. And I am satisfied with their performances in all the matches.

"We beat Egypt 1-0 and drew with Argentina. And in between lost to Holland, which cost us a place in the last four. But our intentions were very clear from the start. We came here for the experience and to provide opportunities to as many players as possible and I feel we achieved that." Sultan al Minhali put the UAE ahead six minutes into the second half. The Al Jazira midfielder tapped in a cross from Thiyab Awana before the Argentine midfielder Lucas Trecarichi got the better of four defenders and poked the ball into the far corner of the net to equalise on the hour.

Ali felt his side were hard done by, having wasted a number of chances against the South Americans, and said: "We had more scoring opportunities but couldn't convert them into goals. I think we were a bit unlucky. "We have no reasons to be disappointed from such results. It is true we didn't come here with the expectation of winning this tournament, but I would be happier if we had reached the last four so we could have got to play two more top level matches."

The team return to the Emirates tonight and after a month's break, will regroup in Al Ain three days before they leave for their summer camp in Switzerland from July 11 to August 17. apassela@thenational.ae