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Maybe the Emiratis Have a Chance

July 19th, 2012 · No Comments · Austria, Football, London 2012, soccer, The National, World Cup

Saw the UAE’s final friendly match tonight, ahead of their going to England for the London 2012 Olympics, and wrote about it for The National.

The UAE football team reaching the Olympics … a very big deal. Not that anyone with much experience following soccer likes their chances, especially in a group with Uruguay, Great Britain and Senegal.

But I think they have a puncher’s chance … to mix sporting metaphors.

I saw several encouraging things in their 4-2 victory over the New Zealand Olympic team today, up at Matrei.

–Scoring four goals, always good news.

–After giving up two (to make it 2-2) against a New Zealand team that had five 2010 World Cup veterans in it, the Emiratis came back with two goals of their own to win.

–The playing conditions were all over the meteorological spectrum. The game began in a downpour, moved to a drizzle, broke into almost painfully bright sun and ended in Euro gloom. The UAE scored twice in the heavy rain, and seemed comfortable playing on a wet field — which probably is a direct result of their month here in the Alps. That was their third game played in heavy rain, out of seven. These are desert kids, remember.

–I really liked their combination of Omar Abdulrahman and Amer Abdulrahamn (not related), who are a couple of tiny midfielders with tremendous technical skills. If the refs don’t let games inn England get too rough, they could control the center of the park, now and then, even against the Uruguayans, Brits and Senegalese.

So, they clearly were the better team against New Zealand. We know New Zealand is not going to win a gold medal, but the Kiwis are not horrible.

Like any other major tournament, the UAE almost surely will need a draw and a victory to get to the quarterfinals, which would be huge, huge, huge.

It’s not the way to bet, but this team is focused and unselfish, and supremely fit — and weirder things have happened.


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