x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE’s fate not in their own hands anymore

You had to feel for UAE coach Rashid Amir at half time. It was hard to see exactly what he could do to influence what was taking place on the pitch. Brazil, quite simply, were in a different class.

Brazil's quick start left the UAE floored on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi. A 6-1 loss leaves the tournament hosts in a difficult spot to making the knockout stage. Lee Hoagland / The National
Brazil's quick start left the UAE floored on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi. A 6-1 loss leaves the tournament hosts in a difficult spot to making the knockout stage. Lee Hoagland / The National

As they trudged off the pitch, defeated for the second time in four days, the dejected Emirati players would have been clinging to one last, flimsy hope.

Incredibly, qualification for the knock-out stages of the 2013 Fifa World Cup, even after a 6-1 thrashing by Brazil at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Sunday night, was still a possibility.

Not a strong one, mind you.

To achieve this unlikely feat, they will have to beat Slovakia on Wednesday night, then hope other results go their way.

Even then, they must hope they are among the four third-place teams with the best records.

It could have been even better; second place would have been up for grabs, too, if Honduras had not scored a late, late equaliser against Slovakia in the earlier Group A match.

As it stands, it is win or bust for the UAE in their last group match.

Few fans expected anything other than a comfortable Brazil win, and with the tandem of Mosquito and Nathan, stars of the opening day destruction of Slovakia, once again leading the boys from Brazil, the UAE endured a nightmare scenario.

The coach called on the support of the nation, but once again, were let down initially.

As on the opening-day match, the crowd grew, from poor to respectable, throughout the first half, although why fans would rock up so late for an 8pm kick off is not quite clear.

It did not take long to quiet those who had made the effort.

The first goal came on nine minutes, through Boschilia, with Brazil almost walking the ball into the net.

It was ominous – and it only got worse.

Boschilia scored again with a lovely left-foot curler after 33 minutes, and four minutes before half time, the captain Nathan notched his third of the tournament with a low finish.

You had to feel for UAE coach Rashid Amir at half time.

It was hard to see exactly what he could do to influence what was taking place on the pitch.

Brazil, quite simply, were in a different class.

There is not much the UAE or anyone else, except maybe Nigeria, can do about it.

The second half, predictably, was more of the same.

The peerless Nathan scored a goal of such maturity it wouldn’t have looked out of place if it was scored at the Maracana next summer.

The substitute Joanderson made it 5-0 after 73 minutes with a sublime volley.

It was just as well that third place in this group would not be decided on goal difference.

Unfortunately for the UAE, being one of the best placed third-place teams, should they achieve that target, will. Cruelly, the nightmare was not over.

The highly rated substitute Gabriel slotted coolly with five minutes left.

A noisy, if small, group of Emirati fans tried to make their presence heard. Everyone else just wanted the torture to end.

The contest ended on bittersweet note for the UAE.

Zayed Al Ameri scored what could barely be called a consolation, to at least give the crowd something to cheer as the match limped into injury time.

For all the brave pre-match talk about nothing being impossible in football, the UAE’s second match was, in hindsight, a match they were always going to lose.

This Brazilian team, bursting with gifted individuals, will take some stopping now, and there is no shame in defeat to them, even by such a big margin.

Now Rashid Amir must lift his team and prepare them for what will be, in essence, a cup final against Slovakia on Wednesday. They will need the fans to be behind them like never before, too.

Win and maybe, just maybe, the impossible can become possible again.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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