Upbeat UAE boss Mohamed Abbas is highlighting the positive of making next month’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, rather than dwelling on Saturday’s comprehensive 7-2 defeat by Iran in the final of the 2017 AFC Beach Soccer Championship.
Hopes of a third continental crown for the Whites quickly evaporated in Malaysia as defender Moslem Mesigar’s double, goalkeeper Seyed Hosseini’s fine strike and forward Mohammadali Mokhtari’s penalty made it 4-0 by the start of the second period.
UAE goalkeeper Humaid Jamal’s inch-perfect strike and defender Haitham Mohamed’s bundled effort threatened to make it uncomfortable at 4-2, before an accurate free-kick by substitute Seyed Nazem, defender Amir Akbari’s volley and a second Mokhtari spot-kick ended the rout.
Both finalists and third-place play-off winners Japan will now go to the Bahamas from April 27-May 7 for the global event.
For freshly-installed coach Abbas, he cannot wait to tackle the challenge ahead.
“This is a really good moment for the team and for me personally as this is my first time as a coach,” he said. “We had aimed to become champions but we couldn’t achieve that.
“But I am proud of my team’s attitude and achievement. Now we have to focus on the World Cup.
“We will be looking at some potential new players to join the squad and will select the best, we’ll also train more. The World Cup is the target now and we’ll try to make an impact there.”
The decision by the UAE Football Association to part ways with Brazilian supremo Guga after a dismal second-bottom finish at November’s Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup has gained instant validation.
The Whites topped Group C ahead of Japan, then edged Lebanon 2-1 on penalties after an epic 4-4 draw in the semi-finals.
That result guaranteed one of three slots for the Caribbean tournament.
There they have been drawn in Group C against Panama, reigning champions Portugal and Guga’s Paraguay. This fifth qualification has helped ease the pain after Iran – ranked 14 places above them in the world rankings in fifth – easily brushed them aside for a second AFC title.
“We were ready for this game and we knew that the UAE were tired as it was a tough semi-final game against Lebanon for them,” Team Melli Football Saheli coach Mohammad Hoseyn Mirshamsi said. “I think today’s game was easy for us.
“The most important advantage that we had over the UAE today was physical fitness.”
Scandal-ridden striker Wanderley has vowed to consign his double punishment to the past and repay Al Nasr’s unwavering support with goals.
Wanderley, 28, produced an assist for substitute Ahmed Khameis and struck a late penalty in Friday’s 4-0 thrashing of Al Shabab in the Arabian Gulf League. This marked a successful comeback from a second suspension of a fitful debut season since a summer switch from Sharjah went sour because of an interminable eligibility row.
“Thank you God for everything,” said the Brazilian, who had been given a contested 10-match ban by the UAE Football Association in January to follow the 60-day sidelining issued in September by the AFC. “I suffered a lot, but thanks God, thanks players, Al Nasr and the fans.
“They all helped me a lot, every day by messages and talking. It was very important for keeping my concentration and to work hard, so I could come back strong.
“I am very happy now. About the punishment, I want to forget it.
“I just want to play football again, it is my life. I have to say again thanks to God and mabrook [congratulations in Arabic] to all the players.”
At the start of 2016/17, Wanderley was registered as the designated Asian in the four-man foreign quota. But the Brazil-born star’s Indonesian passport was ruled a forgery by the continental governing body.
He then returned under his native country’s documents in December, which fell foul of rules dictating nationality cannot change within one season.
These indiscretions have meant Wanderley has scored twice in just three top-flight games for the Blue Wave. At Sharjah last term, he struck 15 times in 26 run-outs.
Despite these setbacks, a dedicated work ethic remained.
“Every time I had discipline, I worked hard and a lot alone,” Wanderley said. “Also in my home, I would go with my wife to the gym.
“I work, work, work. That is why thanks to God I came back strong.
“I also have to thank the coach [Dan Petrescu] for always supporting me and giving me confidence.”
Nasr are a distant sixth in the AGL, but next month’s President’s Cup semi-final against promoted Hatta looms large for Wanderley.
He said: “I hope to continue in the same way and we continue in the same way, making a good job.
“We have the President’s Cup, but it is not easy. We play against Hatta, who are a very good club.
“We play hard and we do our best in the field to get something good for us and our fans.”
Iran lifted the AFC Beach Soccer title for a second time on Saturday as they beat UAE 7-2 in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
Both nations will head to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup but Iran will do as as AFC champions after braces from Moslem Mesigar and tournament MVP Mohammadali Mokhtari helped see off a spirited UAE effort.
Both nations will now begin preparations for their campaign in the Bahamas, where they could potentially come face to face once more.
Iran led two minutes in when Mesigar turned and sent a bobbling effort past Mohamed Abdulla before goalkeeper Peyman Hosseini doubled the advantage amid a dominant start from the Group A winners.
UAE steeled themselves and went close when Ali Mohammad struck the post but they fell further behind when tournament top scorer Mokhtari tucked away a set-piece.
The UAE would continue to ask questions of Iran in the second period but a lapse in concentration allowed Mesigar to glance in Iran’s fourth unmarked after a quick throw from Hosseini.
Hosseini’s opposite number Humaid Jamal got UAE on the board with an inch-perfect strike before Haitham Mohamed bundled in his side’s second to make life awkward for Iran, only for Amir Akbari to slot in a free-kick less than a minute before the final period.
The latter stages began in relatively low-key fashion – Akbari’s strike having seemingly deflated the UAE – and things were made more difficult for the men in white when Ali Nazem added a sixth.
A second from Mokhtari – again from a free-kick – then sealed what proved a relatively comfortable win in the end, Iran ensuring they will head to the Bahamas as Asian champions.