The UAE beach soccer national team under coach Mohammad Al Mazmi (in red T-shirt) is keen to impress and go at least one better than their third place finishes in 2012 and 2013. DSC
Dubai: The UAE’s beach soccer coach has called on his players to give more than 100 per cent if the hosts are to advance into the knockout stages at the 7th Samsung Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup being held from October 31-November 4.
Last week’s draw saw the UAE being pitted against multiple world champions Brazil and Portugal along with African champions Egypt in Group A. The UAE will open against Portugal on October 31 after defending champions Brazil start off against the African champions.
Former player Mohammad Al Mazmi, who took over as coach of the UAE national beach soccer team earlier this year, reckons his team are in a position to make a statement after putting up a disappointing show last year. “We have to play against three of the most powerful and talented teams in the world. I have told my players to approach each match as though it is a final,” Al Mazmi told Gulf News.
“I know, and everyone else in our team does as well, that playing quality sides like Brazil and Portugal is never going to be easy. So we have to do everything to perfection. We have to attack when we have the chance and defend without making any mistakes. One slip and these teams can punish us,” he added.
Held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai Government and Dubai Sports Council (DSC), and organised by the Dubai Sports Council, the 7th edition of the annual beach soccer tournament will run from October 31 to November 4 at its new home at the Marasi Business Bay off Shaikh Zayed Road.
The eight-team tournament was held at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) in 2016, and the hosts did not have a great outing, losing the first four of their matches before a narrow 4-3 win over the United States to finish in seventh position.
However, after taking over from Gustavo ‘Guga’ Zloccowick, Al Mazmi has guided the UAE to the runners-up spot at the AFC Beach Soccer Championship in Malaysia before a respectable showing at the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup in the Bahamas in May, where they lost 2-1 in extra time against defending champions Portugal and missed out on a spot in the knockout stages.
“Our team is a mixture of the new and the experienced. We have players like Ali Karim, Walid Beshir, Kamal Al Baloushi and Ahmad Beshir and along with the younger guys in the squad we can be a force to be reckoned with,” Al Mazmi said.
“All of us have been putting in a lot of hard work since the past few weeks and this will be seen when we take to the pitch next week. We are taking things one step at a time, and we believe in what we can do on the pitch.”
The coach has lined up a couple of friendly matches for the UAE. The first one will be against former three-time Dubai champions Russia on October 27, followed by a second one against South Americans Paraguay the next day. “I think we need these two friendlies to fine-tune our preparations for such an important tournament. We hope our friends, families and residents can come along and support us to achieve our true potential,” Al Mazmi said.
The UAE’s best performance in this competition came with third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, and Al Mazmi feels this well-balanced team can build on and perhaps even go one better. “The first game is the most important. We need to win that one first, and after that we take things one match at a time,” he said.
“The people will see a team here who are organised, skilled and, most importantly, playing with their heart for their country.”
October 31: (4.15pm) Egypt v Brazil (Group A); (5.30pm) Portugal v UAE (Group A); (6.45pm) Russia v Mexico (Group B); (8pm) Iran v Paraguay (Group B)
November 1: (4.15pm) UAE v Egypt (Group A); (5.30pm) Brazil v Portugal (Group A); (6.45pm) Paraguay v Russia (Group B); (8pm) Mexico v Iran (Group B)
November 2: (4.15pm) Mexico v Paraguay (Group B); (5.30pm) Egypt v Portugal (Group A); (6.45pm) UAE v Brazil (Group A); (8pm) Iran v Russia (Group B)
November 3: Semi-finals
November 4: Third place play-off and final