Russia top; UAE coach confident

DUBAI - Coach Marcelo Mendes believes his UAE beach soccer team can use their fourth-place finish in the FIFA Intercontinental Cup as a spur to continually challenge for success on the sand.

By Alex Leach

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2011, 11:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:15 AM

World Cup champions Russia may have come away with the plaudits for their performance in Saturday evening’s final with Brazil, where they twice came back from behind – and then let slip a two-goal advantage – before eventually prevailing 5-4 in extra-time.

However, the UAE can also take great credit from the way they qualified as runners-up behind the eventual winners (Russia) in Group A, prior to losing out 2-0 to Brazil at the semi-final stage.

Mendes’ men duly tackled Switzerland in the third/fourth place play-off, when they valiantly fought back from 4-1 down to ensure an additional three minutes and penalties, which the Swiss won 1-0 as the tournament’s MVP and top goalscorer, Dejan Stankovic, capitalised on Ali Karim’s saved spot-kick.

Still, it was a more than creditable display from the hosts at the eight-strong competition and Mendes insists it can act as a springboard to bigger and better things in the future.

“For us to finish among the top four teams is a great result in the end,” Mendes enthused. “I’m very proud of my players because they gave 100% and proved to the people that we have good potential. If they still invest in the team and make good competitions to discover new players, I think we have a very good future in this sport.

“I hope we can continue this work for one or two more years to develop, find new players and always improve the team in order to stay at this level.”

The UAE were though defeated 7-0 by Russia in the pool phase of this competition, having previously run them a lot closer in two friendly losses (5-4 & 4-1) earlier this year.

Nonetheless, even that drubbing had a positive effect on the home contingent, with “I said to them in the meeting before the Brazil game: ‘Look, if we don’t change our posture, we will lose the same.’ So, their spirit and fight was different and they showed how they can play.

“That game against Russia was good for us because, even though the result didn’t matter in terms of our qualification, they learnt from that match that they cannot relax when they play against a big team.”

They certainly didn’t ease off against Switzerland in the battle for bronze as they took their European opponents down to a dreaded shootout from what seemed like a lost cause.

“When they made it 4-1, we still had 10 minutes to play and – if you want to play at a high level in beach soccer – we cannot give up at any time,” Mendes explained. “10 minutes in beach soccer is too much time and a three-goal differential is nothing. We proved that we can also come back into the game against a big team like Switzerland.”

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