UAE survive drama to book World Cup Finals berth
UAE booked the last ticket to Tahiti for the Beach Soccer World Cup finals with a 3-2 win over Australia thanks to a dramatic last gasp strike by Karim in the third-place playoff of the Asian qualifiers in Doha.
Australia and the UAE were coming off narrow one-goal defeats to Japan and Iran respectively in the previous evening’s semfinals.
"We played a good game tonight because we were well prepared and had great training camps and excellent facilities to work with,” he said. “We would especially like to thank His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, for his support. For Tahiti 2013, we are excited to be the only Arab team qualifying from Asia, and are really looking forward to furthering our training."
On Australia’s National Day, a large and boisterous crowd turned out to support the Beach Socceroos.
But they were quickly silenced, as Karim put the UAE ahead straight from the kick off, with just three seconds on the clock.
And, Australia’s misery was compounded less than a minute later when Walid doubled the UAE’s lead.
Australia were without playmaker and former Aberdeen star Zdrilic, serving a one-match suspension after being sent off in the dying seconds of Friday’s semifinal.
In his absence Aussie captain Nikas, one of the three leading scorers of the tournament thus far with nine goals, took charge to resurrect his side’s hopes of reaching Tahiti.
With seven minutes remaining in the first period, he threaded a long ball through to Matricciani who did not hesitate, making the score 2-1 heading into the first break.
The UAE were unfazed by the Aussie resurgence and, on return from the break, rifled a series of powerful efforts just wide of the goal, and forced Jaeger to make an impressive save minutes into the period.
However, the Beach Socceroos were unlucky not too equalise just before the break, with no one able to capitalise as a loose ball bounced in front of the UAE’s goal.
The score remained 2-1 at the end of the second period.
As the third segment played out, the feisty Australians pushed on in search of a vital equaliser.
And their persistence paid off when Matricciani doubled his and his side’s tally, seconds after forcing a corner, to level the scores.
But the UAE would not lie down, and re-established their lead through Karim with five minutes remaining.
Australia piled on the pressure, but the Emiratis looked to have held out and, as the horn sounded, their substitutes rushed onto the sand to congratulate their teammates.
There were people on the pitch. They thought it was all over. But, in fact, the scoreboard revealed that 0.4 seconds remained on the clock.
The referee re-started the game, with Aussie goalkeeper Jaeger preparing for a last throw of the dice. But as his throw-in arced goalwards, the final horn was heard.
And, controversially, the Aussies would later claim that it was still sounding as George Souris connected with the long throw, powering a header home.
The ‘goal’ prompted the extraordinary sight of both sides rejoicing, but Australian celebrations soon turned to remonstrations as the referee signalled that the goal would not stand.
The late drama provided a lively talking point for the large crowd, mesmerised by a high-quality contest that ultimately saw the UAE sneak home 3-2.
After the match, UAE captain Qambar Mohammed credited the team’s rigorous preparations for their impressive tournament showing.
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