The UAE suffered last-minute heartbreak in their Asian Games quarter-final against North Korea after conceding an injury-time goal that sent them crashing out of the tournament.
After defeating Vietnam 3-1 in the last-16, captain Saeed Al Kathiri revealed the UAE's burning desire to claim gold, although Jong In-Gwan's last-gasp strike put paid to those ambitions.
North Korea, who entered the clash undefeated and off the back of a 4-1 destruction of Indonesia, were expected to be the UAE's toughest opponents of the tournament and so it proved.
However, the Whites defended valiantly and were able to cause the North Koreans some problems the opposite end with their pace and trickery in attack.
But just as the spectators were bracing themselves for extra-time, Jong popped up to bury a goal in the third of five minutes of injury time to secure North Korea's entry into the semi-finals.
North Korea will play the winner of Sunday's quarter-final between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Elsewhere, Thailand eased into the last four, beating Jordan 2-0 through goals from Chanathip Songkrasin and Thawikan Kroekrit.
Thailand's Chanathip, known to his fans as 'Messi J', scored with an easy shot from the edge of the penalty area in the 37th minute. Thawikan fired home in the 70th minute after the Jordanian defence had desperately cleared two shots.
Thailand take on the victors in the grudge match between hosts South Korea and Japan.
Abu Dhabi Country Club (ADCC) were made to work for their 2-1 win over Abu Dhabi Wolfhounds 2 that saw them retain the Ladies' Football International title yesterday.
Dealila Zarouki opened the scoring before Wafa Nacha doubled the lead at GEMS American Academy in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Wolfhounds 2 pulled one back through Louise Irvine.
ADCC continued to pile on pressure to restore their two-goal cushion but held on for the narrow win.
Fama Al Fouk, ADCC coach, said: “The opponents were really tough. We knew before the game it would be difficult because we beat them 3-1 in the group stage. And plus playing in the hot weather didn’t help us.”
Abu Dhabi Wolfhounds coach Stephen Daly added: “It was a very tough encounter and much closer than the game in the group stage. However, I can say I’m very happy with our overall performance today. There are some things we need to work on but that will take time; it was a great effort from the players.”
It was only the second tournament they have played in and Daly hopes the players will have learned from their experience.
He said: “This will be a learning curve for the players and they can apply what they’ve learnt in future competitions.”
Yas Kicks, Abu Dhabi Thistle, Abu Dhabi Youth FC, UAE U-16s (two teams), Abu Dhabi Wolfhounds 1, as well as the two finalists, took part in the seven-a-side competition, organised by E-Sports.
E-Sports sports development manager Kaye Smith was pleased with the turnout and hopes more sides will take part in the third edition in December.
She said: “It was great to see the turnout today and E-Sports will continue to facilitate these tournaments to keep promoting women’s football.
“And now we want to encourage more teams across the Middle East to take part in the future. We’ve had interest from Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and we hope those teams can compete in our next competition.”
UAE captain Saeed Al Kathiri believes the team’s desire to capture Asian Games gold has been reinforced after they booked themselves a spot in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Vietnam at the Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium.
Al Kathiri, who was part of the UAE squad that won silver in Guangzhou four years ago, scored his fourth goal of the Games to put the Whites in front early on before Saif Al Meqbaali doubled their lead in the second half.
But Vietnam were thrown a lifeline when UAE midfielder Mohammed Al Yassi received his marching orders for inexplicably headbutting a player in response to a rough challenge on a teammate.
It meant the 2010 runners-up were forced to play with 10 men for half an hour and Vietnam tried to capitalise by making it 2-1 in the 87th minute, through Huy Hung Nguyen.
But the UAE defence held firm as their opponents searched for the equaliser and when Bandar Al Ahbabi rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home in the dying stages, he killed off the game booking his side a quarter-final meeting with North Korea.
"We’re feeling great and we won’t just stop here, we’ll keep on going to get the gold," said Al Kathiri, who is one of three over-age players in the squad.
"We have huge ambition to win and every time you advance and take a step further, your dream gets bigger. We’re all thinking about the cup and now we have to prepare well for North Korea."
The North Koreans secured their place in the final eight by routing Indonesia 4-1 at the Ansan Wa Stadium. They are undefeated so far in the Games and could prove the UAE’s toughest test yet.
"We haven’t had the chance to watch them yet but we’ll study their matches with our coach (Ali Ibrahim) and get prepared," added Al Kathiri. "We don’t think they’ll be better adjusted to the conditions because we’ve been here for almost a month and are well-acclimatised to the conditions.
"We’re not too worried about them. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves."
Other action saw Iraq advance to the last eight by downing Tajikistan 4-2 while Saudi Arabia edged past Uzbekistan thanks to a 95th minute strike from Abdulaziz Al Bishi.
The quarter-finals will take place tomorrow at 14:00 (9:00 UAE time) and 17:00 (12:00 UAE time).
Schedule – Quarter-finals (UAE time)
9:00 Thailand v Jordan – Incheon Football Stadium
9:00 UAE v North Korea – Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium
12:00 South Korea v Japan – Munhak Stadium
12:00 Saudi Arabia v Iraq – Goyang Stadium