Ahmed Khalil's 83rd-minute goal put UAE through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup as they came from behind to beat Venezuela 2-1 in Suez. The game was a battle of the striking duos, with Jonathan Del Valle and Jose Rondon looking lively for the South Americans, and ultimately it was Ahmed Ali and Khalil who had the final say.
The two teams traded long-range shots which flew over the bar in the early stages, with Mohammed Fayez and Francisco Flores the guilty parties for UAE and Venezuela respectively. La Vinotinto sounded an early warning note in the tenth minute when Rondon crossed for Del Valle, who forced a good save from Yousif Abdulrahman from close range. And two minutes later they took the lead.
It was the same counter-attacking combination, but this time in reverse, that undid UAE. Carlos Fernandez played a lovely pass with the outside of his boot to find Del Valle in space. The striker then played a ball in behind UAE's defence, which Abdulrahman managed to get a hand to, only for the ball to fall kindly for Rondon, who slotted home his fourth of the tournament.
Following the goal, the South Americans enjoyed their best passage of play in the first half, so it came as some relief for UAE when they drew level in the 22nd minute with one of the simplest goals of the tournament so far. Amer Abdulrahaman delivered a free-kick from the right and, with Rafael Romo rooted to the spot, Mohamed Ahmed rose above the Venezuela defence to glance a header into the net.
Rondon then hit the post with a downward header following a wonderful cross from Pablo Camacho, but the latter's lapse in concentration allowed Ahmed Ali to play in a good ball for Mohamed Fayez, who forced a decent save from Romo.
Venezuela started the second half brightly, but it was UAE who created the better chances. The first clear-cut opportunity came in the 56th minute, when Ahmed Ali found Ahmed Khalil, who fired a shot straight at Romo with the rest of the goal at his mercy. However, with the game heading for extra time, that combination worked to devastating effect.
In the 83rd minute, Ahmed Ali picked up the ball in the left channel, but profited from a slip from Carlos Salazar to square the ball to his strike partner, who squeezed a shot inside the near post to spark wild celebrations from coach, players and fans. As expected, Venezuela poured forward with a great sense of urgency, but their attacking forays came to nothing.
As it was, UAE booked their passage to the quarter-finals, equalling their achievement of 2003. They now face Costa Rica in Cairo, where support for the team is set to be as strong as it was in Suez.