- UAE stunned Russia 4-1 in second Group C match
- The nation's first win against European opposition at a Beach Soccer World Cup
- Mohamed Aljasmi and Ali Mohammad tell us how it happened
The United Arab Emirates national team means serious business.
After falling to Belarus, the only debutants at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019™, in a 5-1 defeat on the opening matchday heads could’ve dropped. The UAE were toothless and never felt like they were in the game.
Just two days later - life at the Beach Soccer World Cup moves at a hyper speed - they showed anything but deflation as they turned everything around and produced the tournament’s biggest upset so far: a 4-1 victory over two-time world champions Russia.
So, what changed?
"We lost the first game [against Belarus] because there wasn't enough focus," Mohamed Aljasmi told FIFA.com, who gave the spark of inspiration the team needed with the game's first goal against Russia. "That was a mistake from us and we’ve learned from it and brought it for today's match."
UAE's win over Russia not only gives them hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time in the nation's history, but it represents a certain milestone: a first win over European opposition in the competition at the seventh time of asking.
“We have to focus on the game," said Aljasmi. "We can beat any team, but the focus has got to be there. If you don’t have focus, you will die."
The focus is going to have to be there in their next game against Senegal, as a win-or-go-home scenario has developed in Group C as was exactly predicted by UAE captain Walid Mohammad. "It’s going to go down to the last game,” Mohammad predicted, speaking with FIFA.com days before the tournament started. “I give a 25 per cent chance for all the teams in the group to get through.”
Mohammad was spot on. Group C is the only group at Paraguay 2019 where all four teams have three points going into the final round of matches.
This UAE team will know that every goal counts and every moment matters because at the last World Cup two years ago in the Bahamas they were knocked out by Portugal after extra time in the final round group matches.
There's a tight-knit vibe about the squad. Despite the setback in the Bahamas, they've stuck together.
“When we don’t have any training or a national team camp, we train together and organise it ourselves anyway," Aljasmi said. "We meet and we train. We are a family."
Every time Aljasmi was talking about focus, he pointed to his eyes and when Ali Mohammad scored his goal to regain the lead for the UAE, he cupped his hands around his eyes.
"In our group we think about our goals. We have goals and we can reach them.”