The UAE will fittingly face reigning world champions Portugal for a shot at making FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup history as they look to reach the knockout stages for the first time.
Mohamed Bashir’s men beat Panama 3-2 on penalties in the Bahamas yesterday to build on their opening Group C win against Paraguay.
It puts them top of the table but they still require a positive result against 2015 World Cup winners Portugal tomorrow (kick-off 04:00 UAE time) in Nassau in order to make it past the group in their fifth appearance on the grand stage.
Teams earn three points for outright victory and one for a penalty shootout win, so defeat to the Portuguese coupled with a Paraguayan victory over Panama could still see the Whites miss out.
For now though, they will head into the game with great confidence following their second win – secured via Ali Karim’s winning penalty.
The UAE certainly survived a scare in the process of recording victory over the South Americans.
Despite scoring inside the opening minute through captain Walid Mohammad, the UAE were forced to come from behind after Panama netted twice in quick succession.
Despite opening the scoring the UAE found themselves behind in just 12 seconds after Pascual Galvez equalised before Justo Arrocha’s second left Bashir’s men shell-shocked.
However, Mohammad led by example and netted his second before the interval to draw his side level.
Both teams pressed for a winner, with the UAE enjoying 71 per cent of the possession, but the deadlock could not be broken, even after extra-time, so it came down to penalties.
Rafael Garcia buried his opening kick for Panama with Haitham Mohamed doing likewise for the Whites. Eliecer Garcia then missed as Ahmed Beshr scored to put the UAE in control.
Julio Watson then saw his effort saved by UAE stopper Mohamed Aljasmi although Waleed Beshr saw his next effort cannon off the crossbar. Alberto Bultron kept his cool to keep Panama in the contest but veteran Karim netted to earn the UAE the win in thrilling fashion.
It was a brave showing from Panama following a 7-0 opening defeat to Portugal on their tournament debut.
Skipper Mohammad thanked his coach and team-mates for a victory that puts them on the cusp of the quarter-finals, although he insists there is still work to do.
“Playing in the World Cup you should respect all participating teams and not underestimate the opponent at all,” said the 33-year-old.
“The team came to the Bahamas with the aim of winning and qualifying for the finals and and thanks to God we have so far managed to win against Paraguay and Panama, and with his permission we will beat World Cup champions Portugal in the third game.
“I call on my team-mates to continue this sparkling form and play with the same high spirit as we attempt to write a new history of UAE beach soccer at the World Cup.”
UAE Football Association president Marwan bin Ghalita sent his congratulations after the match during a telephone call with coach Bashir, while he later tweeted his congratulations to the team, saying: “Thanks for the beach heroes fighting for the last second win, they are due congratulations and may God grant you success in the crucial next stop.”
Meanwhile, Paraguay, coached by former UAE trainer Guga, provided the first upset at this year’s Beach Soccer World Cup after a well-deserved 5-3 victory over Portugal in their Group C clash yesterday.
The first two periods were evenly contested, as Jordan twice cancelled out goals from Paraguay’s Jesus Rolon and Pedro Moran.
In the third period, Paraguay secured a famous win with three fine goals from Moran, Juan Lopez, and Carlos Carballo, rendering Alan’s late reply inconsequential.
The Whites face Portugal at 04:00 with Panama and Paraguay clashing at 01:00 UAE time.
Know more about Sport360 Application