Madjer takes Gulf by storm
© AFP

UAE were unlucky in their first match of Dubai 2009 to have to face the powerful Portuguese, who put on a creditable fightback led by their captain Madjer to overcome the hosts 7-5, following in the footsteps of Senegal who defeated hosts France at Marseille 2008.

Within a minute of the kick-off of this much-anticipated match, Rami Al Mesaabi sent the home fans into an early delirium after his overhead kick drifted into the far corner of the net. Apparently Madjer did not like what he saw and he sent a hint of things to come as he proceeded to crush a ball off of the hosts’ crossbar.

Spain goalkeeper Bruno did well to deflect another probing effort out of harm’s way before his counterpart at the opposite end did much the same to deny Torres’ vicious strike from distance. At the midway point of the match, Qambar Sadeqi delivered a clinical free-kick to put his side ahead by two. And it was their captivating captain Bakhit Alabadla who slotted home a third as the local supporters joyously shouted their approval.

As the second half got underway, Portugal was unfortunate to send a direct-kick well wide, another into the grasp of UAE goalkeeper Abbas Hussain and then a third shot just over the bar. But then Portugal’s Ze Maria nodded home from close range, as UAE must have feared that their home debut could become imperfect after all.

Close calls at both ends followed and more than one player took hard knocks. As the second period wound down, Bakhit outmaneuvered his marker and produced a scorching shot that just missed the post. It was Portugal, though, who next had reason to cheer, as Belchoir slammed home a penalty after a collision in front of the UAE goal.

A yellow card granted UAE the opportunity to extend their lead and Karim Albalooshi made no mistake, before Madjer and then Alan drew Portugal level as the unpredictable nature of beach soccer was made clear. The sides quickly exchanged goals before Madjer struck twice to earn his side a dramatic victory.

Up next for Portugal is an enticing match-up with Uruguay, while the hosts shall face one James Naka and his Solomon Islands compatriots, who are sure to put up a fight worthy of their ‘Brazil of the Pacific’ nickname.