Some of the top dignitaries present were Mattar Al Tayer, Deputy Chairman, Dubai Sports Council (DSC), Mohammad Khalfan Al Rumaithi, President, UAE Football Association, Salah Tahak, Tournament Director and Dr. Ahmad Saad Al Sharif, Secretary General, DSC.
“This is going to be one huge challenge, but one that we are ready and willing to face before our home crowd,” Saad remarked after the draw.
Despite being drawn in a tough group, Marcelo Mendes, the UAE’s Brazilian coach was confident of making at least the semifinals of the week-long competition. “I trust my players and I am confident in their abilities to deliver when it matters most. We have been training together for the past two years and the players have gained adequate experience playing in some tough matches and competitions during our build-up to this event,” Mendes noted.
Mohammad Khalfan Al Rumaithi spelt out that the promotion of beach soccer in the UAE is one of the priorities before the UAEFA. “The UAE are the Asian champions and this will be their second time at a World Cup,” Al Rumaithi stated.
Spain’s Ramiro Amarelle, who went on to win the adidas golden ball in Marseille last year, saw the UAE among the prime challengers for a place in the knockout stages of the competition. “It’s a tough group for them [UAE], but the spectators will benefit by seeing some exciting matches,” Amarelle stated.
Karembeu, who flew in especially for Thursday’s draw ceremony, hoped to see European champions Spain take on three-time and defending world champions Brazil in the November 22 final. “A final like this will be great for the sport and Dubai,” Karembeu said.
The beach soccer tournament originated from the fabled Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the Beach Soccer World Championship way back in 1994. However, in 2004, Beach Soccer Worldwide aligned itself with Fifa to create the current competition.
After the first three editions held in Brazil, the competition moved for the first time to Marseille, France (2008), where Brazil went on to be crowned world champions for a third straight time. And hosting the 16-team event here will be the first time for an Asian country to organize the Beach Soccer World Cup.
Group A: UAE, Portugal, Uruguay, Solomon Islands
Group B: Spain, Asia 1, Cote d'Ivoire, El Salvador
Group C: Russia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Italy
Group D: Brazil, Nigeria, Switzerland, Asia 2