Dubai: The UAE have set their sights for a spot in the semi-finals when the team departs for the 2019 Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup to be held in Asuncion, Paraguay from November 21.
Buoyant after their third place finish at the ninth edition of the Dubai International Beach Soccer Cup that concluded on Saturday, the UAE have now fixed their gaze on a strong showing in their sixth appearance at the global competition, that is held once every two years.
The UAE made their debut at the 2007 competition held in Brazil and qualified for their sixth appearance when they ended third behind Japan and Oman at the 2019 AFC Beach Soccer Qualifiers earlier this year.
In Paraguay, the UAE will commence their campaign against Belarus in their Group C encounter on November 22. Senegal and Russia are the other two teams in the group. “We needed to have a strong competition like this one where we got the opportunity to play some really close matches against some of the strongest teams in the world,” Waleed Beshr, Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament, told Gulf News.
“We had to win that semi-final against Iran [on Friday] and things could have been so different on Saturday. We had our chances, but then this is football,” he added.
Trailing Iran by a goal until the end of the final period, the hosts got a lifeline through a fortunate equaliser with less than a minute remaining. The extra-time didn’t break the deadlock but the shootout broke UAE hearts as Iranian goalkeeper Peyman saved off Kamal Mohammad to win 4-3 and deny the home side a first-ever entry into the final.
“There are lessons to be learnt. We’ve had five tough matches and we have shown that we are one family that is willing to stand together till the last second of a match. We hope to go at least to the semi-finals in Paraguay,” Beshr said.
In their five appearances so far, the UAE have played 15 matches and won just three of these without advancing past the group stages even once. Defending champions Brazil, who did not feature this year in Dubai due to the World Cup, have won the World Cup a record 14 times. “It was good that Brazil wasn’t these for the Dubai tournament this year as this gave us a fresh belief that we can play without any pressure,” Beshr said.
“We have given a good account of ourselves while beating strong teams like Russia and Italy. I think we will be in the best frame of mind when we land in Paraguay,” he promised.
Final positions: 1. Iran; 2. Spain; 3. UAE; 4. Russia; 5. Japan; 6. Egypt; 7. Italy; 8. Mexico.
Best Goalkeeper: Mohammad Al Jasmi (UAE)
Top scorer of the tournament: Amirhosein Akbari (Iran)
Most Valuable Player: Waleed Beshr (UAE)