Some things in life as we know are and will always be true. A dolphin sleeps with one eye open. Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate. The sun rises from the east and sets in the west. And a football game between Uruguay and UAE will result in Uruguay winning it.
But what if, for that one moment, we were wrong, at least about that last one? What if UAE broke the odd and made us believe that the minnows could cause an upset? That is what a handful of us thought when captain Ismael Matar scored in the 22nd minute to give UAE the lead.
Sadly, to witness something unpredicted like the above, takes a lot of patience and hard work which was missing in the case of these young Emiratis as they faced potential Gold medalists – Uruguay at Old Trafford today.
The confidence displayed by the Olympic debutants in the first half was off the charts. 20-yr-old Omar Abdulrahman was the one out of a bunch that stood out. With charming ball control and armed with a playmakers vision, Omar undeniably raised a few brows in the Uruguayan defense. It was his rightly weighted pass to Matar that led to the goal. Ismael Matar making the best of it with great composure.
The Uruguayans did not have an answer to UAE’s style of play. The Emiratis played simple, one-two’s behind the Uruguayan defense that looked pretty to the eye. At one moment, in the 33rd minute, they managed to receive the crowd’s appreciation, as they pulled off an impressive little tiki-taka with 10 – 15 touches in close quarters.
But then momentum shifted in the 41st minute. Gaston Ramirez leveled the match through an accurately taken free kick. With the tallest UAE player being 6ft, he had a very good look at the goal. Indeed, UAE’s height was the weakness there.
Second half was a defensive breakdown for the Emiratis. The amateurism of the newcomers was quite visible as they had multiple defensive errors, one of them, which led to Uruguayan sub, Lodiero scoring in the 55th minute. They could not afford to give possession away but they did.
So how do we sum it up? Goal Keeper Ali Kasheif did very well in stopping the constant barrages of shots in the second half. He managed to stay focused enough not to pull-off any antics like he did against Esteghlal in the Asian Champions League earlier in the year. This is what I am talking about.
Ahmed Khalil, who was expected to show his true potential in these games, did everything but that. He was absent for most of the game, looked weak on the ball and was being brushed easily off it. Omar AbdulRahman was the central figure for the entire 90 minutes. He showed his true potential on the field. Wouldn’t be surprised if the many hungry wolves (scouts) present at the Olympics notice him.
The Uruguayans looked a bit anxious in the beginning but provided just enough to beat the Emiratis. Suarez was a menace as always. The two goals scored should be credited to the tenacity that we had often seen him play with at Liverpool. Cavani was quite but does not seem like he will remain so in the games to come. He cannot be.
Apart from the fact that the American commentators had a hard time pronouncing the individual names of the UAE players, one thing was noticeable today. This group of young Emiratis will make their presence felt at a global level, if they continue to develop as they have. Win or lose in the next few games, they and the country as a whole, should remember that being at the Olympics is an accomplishment in itself.