The UAE will open their Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup campaign against Portugal at the tournament’s swanky new home at Marasi Business Bay, hoping to get off to a good start as they bid to make the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time since 2013.
The annual invitation-only beach soccer extravaganza has been calling Dubai International Marine Club its home since 2013 after visiting Jumeirah Beach Residence for the inaugural edition in 2011 and Dubai Festival City the following year.
This year, the seventh edition of the tournament, which brings eight of the sport’s best teams from every continent to Dubai, will be hosted by Dubai Properties at their stunning new development Marasi Business Bay from October 31 to November 4.
Brazil, the defending champions and 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup winners, will make first use of the brand new sandy pitches when they meet Egypt in the opening match of the tournament, which has become one of the landmark events on Dubai’s glittering sporting calendar.
The hosts UAE, who lost all three of their group matches last year and finished seventh – their worst finish in six editions of the tournament – will be hoping to make amends as they take on 2015 World Cup winners Portugal in the second match of the opening day.
Drawn in a tough Group A, the Whites will face familiar foes Egypt on day two before taking on Brazil on the final day of group matches, with a knockout berth potentially at stake.
“The first match is always very important,” said Mohammad Al Mazmi, the UAE national beach soccer team coach. “It is certainly not an easy match, but you are never going to have easy matches in a tournament likes this, which brings eight of the world’s best teams together.
“Hopefully we can prepare well and make a good start,” added Al Mazmi, whose team have not played competitively since their group-exit from the 2017 World Cup, which was held in the Bahamas in May.
The UAE lost 1-2 to Portugal in their third and final group match at the World Cup to narrowly miss out on a quarterfinal spot.
“A good start will boost the players’ confidence and we can then carry that momentum. So our focus will be on the first match. We have not played for a few months and it will be important to play a lot of friendly matches before we take on Portugal.
“Insha’Allah everything will be good and we will make our fans proud by reaching the knockout stages.”
Iran, the 2016 runners-up and 2013 champions, will open their campaign against Paraguay in day one’s final clash, taking the pitch after the opening Group B match between three-time champions Russia and Mexico.
In what should be the match of the group stages, Russia, who have reached the final in five of the six Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup, will face-off against Iran in front of potentially packed stands late on Thursday night.
Intercontinental Cup matches between those two arch-rivals in the past have always been played out in front of packed, boisterous stands.
The semi-finals are scheduled for Friday, while the final and the play-offs will take place on Saturday.
GROUP MATCHES SCHEDULE
Tuesday, October 31
16:15: Egypt vs Brazil (Group A)
17:30: Portugal vs UAE (Group A)
18:45: Russia vs Mexico (Group B)
20:00: Iran vs Paraguay (Group B)
Wednesday, November 1
16:15: UAE vs Egypt (Group A)
17:30: Brazil vs Portugal (Group A)
18:45: Paraguay vs Russia (Group B)
20:00: Mexico vs Iran (Group B)
Thursday, November 2
16:15: Mexico vs Paraguay (Group B)
17:30: Egypt vs Portugal (Group A)
18:45: UAE vs Brazil (Group A)
20:00: Iran vs Russia (Group B)