Japan defeated Bahrain 4-2 in a tense final at Jumeirah Beach, Umm Suqeim on Wednesday to reign supreme at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2009 Qualifier Dubai. As finalists, both nations were already secure in the knowledge that they shall represent their continent at the upcoming FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009, having outlasted Iran and Oman to guarantee their spots at beach soccer’s global showpiece. But the result of the final granted each side a road ahead that is uniquely their own.
The competition took place from 7 to 11 November on the sands of Jumeirah Beach, the site of Dubai 2009. As the victor, Japan is now set to join Spain, Côte d'Ivoire and El Salvador in Group B, while Bahrain has the unsavory task of taking on defending champions, Brazil, as well as Nigeria and Switzerland in Group D.
"This win was from the heart. We worked really hard and the team deserve the win. It is very, very good," said Japan coach Ruy Ramos.
Japan went ahead in the first period on a goal by Teruki Tabata and held the lead until the middle of the second period when Bahrain equalised. Japan went ahead for a second time mere moments into the final period, only for Bahrain to equalise once more. But Bahrain could summon no further response when first Shusei Yamauchi and then Masakiyo Maezono found the back of the net, as Japan sealed the win.
“I told the team before the match they could go into the (FIFA Beach Soccer) World Cup and have an easy opportunity or we could go the hard way and face Brazil, Switzerland and Nigeria. It is going to be very tough, but I have a lot of faith in the team," said Bahrain coach Gustavo Silva. "Japan did very well tonight and we wish them all the best during the World Cup.”
Oman take third
In the match for third place, Oman defeated Iran in a penalty shootout. Oman came to Dubai as the 2008 Asian Beach Games champions, but had never taken part in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifier.
"After our loss to Japan, the team needed a win to regain its confidence. I think we can only get stronger, especially now after we beat Iran, one of the strongest teams and more experienced sides in the competition," said Oman coach Talib Al Thanawi.
Oman got off on the right foot with a 2-1 victory over China on the first day of the qualifiers. China had scored in the final two minutes of the first period to take the lead, but Oman replied with just one second remaining in the second period, as Yahaya Al Araimi struck. The winning goal came in the final three minutes of the match as Oman grabbed the first points in Group B.
As Group A got underway, Bahrain was able to secure its first points of the tournament with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan. It was an emotionally-charged match in which the coach of Uzbekistan was sent-off for entering the pitch and Bahrain’s Alabddulla Abdullah was shown red after receiving two yellow cards.
Day two of the group stage featured upstart Australia recording its first ever victory in an international beach soccer match, defeating China 4-1. Australia, who arrived in Dubai with little beach soccer experience, were propelled by Michael Matricciani’s hat-trick, as the only Chinese goal arrived in the final two minutes of the match. In other action that day, Japan signalled its intentions as it played its first match of the tournament, recording a 5-3 win over Uzbekistan.
Iran made matters worse for China on day three, handing them their third loss and a ticket home. With the 8-2 result, Iran tallied their third win of the qualifier and secured maximum points from the group stage. Meanwhile, Oman booked a place in the semi-finals after defeating Australia 4-2 in a physical game in which six yellow cards and a red card were handed out.
Four do battle
In the semi-finals, Japan, who were seeded first in the tournament, became the first Asian team to qualify for Dubai 2009, after beating Iran 5-3 at Jumeirah Beach. And Nesuf Yaqoob struck three as Bahrain left little doubt that they were too strong for Oman, firing home six after Oman had scored their first – and last – goal of the night in the second minute of the match.