Dubai: Iran will take on Spain in the final of the 2019 Dubai Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup that will conclude at Jumeirah’s Kite Beach, on Saturday.
The Iranians made it their fourth final in seven appearances here with a heartbreaking 4-3 sudden death penalty shoot-out win over hosts UAE to stay on track towards equalling the record of Russia and Brazil — both of whom have won this tournament on three occasions each in the past.
Earlier, Spain had booked their place in the final in only their second entry in this competition after felling the mighty Russians for an equally gritty 4-2 result.
For the Iranians, this will be a fourth appearance in the final here — from which they have been crowned champions twice (2013 and 2018), and runners-up in 2016.
After soaking up early pressure from the hosts, Iran opened in the first period when goalkeeper Mohammad Al Jasmi spilt a direct shot from his opposite Hamid Behzadpour with 3.15 minutes left in first period.
The home team pressed for a goal but found the Iranian defence and their goalkeeper a tough nut to crack till skipper Waleed Mohammad’s left-footed drive found the far corner of the Iranian goal with 5.19 minutes remaining.
Both teams went all out for that elusive goal that never came till the end of regulation period and the three minutes of extra time to send the encounter to be decided on a penalty shoot-out. Ali Mirshekari, Mostafa Kianiharchegani, Saeid Piramoun and Mohammad Masoumizadeh converted for Iran after Al Jasmi had saved Mahdi Shirmohammadi’s kick.
Ali Karim hit the post, while Hesham Muntaser, Waleed Al Beshr and Abbas Ali were on target for the UAE. But, substitute goalkeeper Seyed Peyman stopped Kamal Ali’s shot to book Iran’s place in the final against Spain.
For the Spaniards, this will be a maiden entry into the final following their sixth place finish on debut last year. “I think it was all down to tactics. We have played each other quite a few times and that knowledge helped today,” Spain coach Joaquin Alonso said.
“I pretty much knew how they would be playing, so keeping our concentration throughout was equally vital,” he added.
Llorenc Gomez Leon’s brilliant overhead kick gave Spain an early lead and David Ardil doubled the advantage at the end of the opening period. The three-time champions struck back in quick succession through Boris Nikonorov and Ostap Fedorov to go level 2-2. But, Salvador Manuel Ardil restored their lead and then skipper Javier Torres Molina put it beyond the Russians.
Earlier, Egypt and Japan booked their places for the fifth-place play-off. Asian champions Japan fought back from a 1-4 deficit to beat Mexico 5-4, while Egypt kept it late for a 4-3 win over Italy.
(Friday) Japan v Mexico 5-4; Egypt v Italy 4-3; Spain v Russia 4-2; Iran v UAE 1-1 (4-3 in sudden death penalty shoot-out).
Saturday: 4.15 Italy v Mexico; 5.30 Egypt v Japan; 6.45 Third place: Russia v UAE; 8.00: Final: Spain v Iran.