x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE suffer 122nd minute heartbreak

Marcos Urena's extra-time winner, seconds from the end, brought the UAE's campaign in the Under 20 World Cup to an end at the hands of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's Jose Mena, left, tackles the UAE's Ahmed Ali in their Under 20 World Cup quarter-final match in Cairo.
Costa Rica's Jose Mena, left, tackles the UAE's Ahmed Ali in their Under 20 World Cup quarter-final match in Cairo.

CAIRO // Marcos Urena's extra-time winner, seconds from the end, brought the UAE's campaign in the Under 20 World Cup to an end, with the Asian champions going down 2-1 to Costa Rica. Ahmed Ali gave the UAE the lead in the 33rd minute, but they kept it for just four minutes as Josue Martinez equalised with a header. The stalemate continued through the rest of the game and extra-time, until Urena struck in the 122nd minute to book the Central Americans a semi-final date with Brazil. Needing a win to achieve their dreams of reaching the semi-finals, the coach Mahdi Ali made a few tactical changes to the team in defence. Concerned by Saad Surour's poor form, he rested the Al Ahli defender and gave Saoud Saeed his first game of the tournament. Saeed took the suspended Mohammed Fayez's place on the left, Mohammed Ahmed was moved to the centre alongside the captain Hamdan al Kamali, while Abdulaziz Hussain, returning to the squad after missing out the last game, played on the right. Sultan al Menhali replaced the other suspended Emirati, Theyab Awana. The changes worked well as the Whites kept the Central Americans quiet. Things were a lot busier at the other end, though, with the UAE forcing a corner in the opening minute. Five minutes later, Ahmed Khalil was brought down inside the box, but Croatian referee Ivan Bebek ruled against a penalty and booked the Al Ahli star instead. Khalil came close again in the 19th minute with a zipping volley, which missed the target before Habib al Fardan's header in the 26th minute similarly sailed over the crossbar. The hardworking Whites were, however, not to be denied for long. Khalil, bursting down the right with Roy Smith in hot pursuit, out-muscled his marker and flicked the ball inside for Ali to tap home. After getting the goal, the UAE took their foot off the pedal and paid the price as the jet-heeled Martinez, left unmarked inside the box, headed in a cross from the left for the equaliser which silenced the more than 32,000 fans. Khalil had a golden opportunity to put the UAE ahead two minutes before the break after being sent clear by al Menhali, but his attempt to flick the ball over the charging goalkeeper failed. Al Menhali, himself, had a chance six minutes into the second session after being set up by a deft Ali flick, but he failed to take a first-time shot and then blazed it over. The saga of misses continued through the session and the game was forced into extra-time, where Khalil almost broke the deadlock with a strike in the opening minute and Hamdan al Kamali's free-kick in the 117th minute brushed the bar. Mohammed Fawzi got a straight red card for dangerous play with just a minute remaining and then, with virtually the final kick of the game, Urena took advantage of a defensive lapse to take the Ticos into the semis and end the UAE's World Cup dream.

arizvi@thenational.ae