DUBAI // Hours after hopping off their long-haul flight from Brazil, the UAE national beach soccer team will take to the sands again on Tuesday as they will hope to put on a good show in front of a home crowd in their opening Intercontinental Cup match against Morocco.
After a disappointing effort at the Tahiti World Cup in September, when the UAE lost all three group matches, the team are keen to make amends at the Intercontinental Cup, a tournament where they have reached the semi-finals in the past two editions.
The draw has seen the hosts avoid two-time reigning world champions Russia and 13-time world champions Brazil, who are both in Group B alongside Asian champions Iran and European powerhouses Italy. The UAE, instead, will face Morocco, Mexico and Switzerland for the two semi-final spots from Group A.
Marcelo Mendes, the UAE coach, had taken his players to the Mundialito de Clubes (Club World Cup) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as part of the Al Ahli squad to prepare for the Intercontinental Cup.
The team, though they failed to reach the knock-out stages, had some encouraging results. They lost 2-0 and 6-4 to Brazilian sides Botafogo and Vasco da Gama, but they managed to stun Barcelona, 3-1 in their final group game.
“I think it was a very good experience for our national team players,” Mendes said. “They played against the best players of the world and I believe they have learnt a lot. It was a good preparation for the Intercontinental Cup.”
He also said the win over Barcelona, a team represented by four players from the Spanish national team that finished runners-up at the Tahiti World Cup, was the perfect boost for his players ahead of the Intercontinental Cup.
“Against Barcelona, we played without [Portuguese star] Madjer and our national team players stepped up, showing what they are really capable of,” Mendes said. “Barcelona have so many big players and they could score only one goal against us.”
The coach, however, is “wary of making any predictions” after the disappointment in Tahiti. “But I trust my players and the team, and the first game against Morocco will be very important,” he said. “If we can make a good, confident start, then we have the team to reach the semis.
“We will fight to be in the semis again and hopefully get a better result than the two previous years. We want to play the final.”
What Intercontinental Cup
Where Dubai Marine Club
When Tuesday until Saturday
Today Switzerland v Mexico, 4.45pm, Russia v Iran, 6pm, Italy v Brazil, 7.15pm, UAE v Morocco, 8.30pm
Tickets Entry is free