x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

We did not lose game on purpose says Awana

Theyab Awana, hero of the stunning fightback against South Africa in the opening game, has denied suggestions that the UAE eased-up against Hungary in their final group game.

ALEXANDRIA // Theyab Awana, hero of the stunning fightback against South Africa in the opening game, has denied suggestions that the UAE eased-up against Hungary in their final group game to avoid meeting the Czech Republic in the second round of the Under 20 World Cup. Victory on Saturday night would have pitted the UAE against the 2007 finalists, but they lost 2-0 and will now face debutants Venezuela in Suez on Wednesday.

"Our target was to win the game and top the group," said Awana, who scored the last-minute equaliser in the 2-2 draw with South Africa. "We never wanted to lose this game and finish second to avoid facing the Czech Republic. "This is the World Cup and you don't really have the luxury of picking your opponents in a tournament like this. You have to be ready to face any team. "The best 16 teams from around the world have reached the second round and each one of them is a strong opponent.

"I think we lost the game because we were a bit over eager to win. We put ourselves under pressure. I apologise to the fans and promise to make up for it in the next match." Venezuela may appear lightweight compared to the Czech Republic, but they qualified ahead of six-time winners Argentina from South America. In Egypt, they stunned Nigeria 1-0 in their opening game and beat Tahiti 8-0 before losing 3-0 to Spain.

Looking at their performance, left-back Mohammed Fayez warned against underestimating Venezuela. "Venezuela are not easier opponent than the others," he said. "Their group games have shown they are a really good side and deserve a lot more respect than they are getting. "We lacked focus against Hungary as we had already qualified for the second round." arizvi@thenational.ae