UAE Qualify for Olympics Football for the First Time

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Ahmed Khalil (right) scored twice as the United Arab Emirates qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time after beating Uzbekistan 3-2 in Tashkent on Wednesday.
(WFI) The United Arab Emirates have qualified for the Olympics for the first time in their history after a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Uzbekistan.

UAE's ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was quick to laud the momentous achievement.

"We are confident that this feat will further motivate you to score more victories in the London Olympic competition in summer. The victory is part of the victories being scored by our teams in different sports and competitions," Sheikh Khalifa was quoted by Emirates 24/7.

Japan and South Korea are the other Asian teams who have so far secured places at the London 2012 football tournament kicking off July 25.

The UAE's victory on Wednesday condemned Uzbekistan to the play-offs alongside Syria and Oman.

Uzbekistan needed to win in Tashkent to dislodge the UAE from the top of Group B. They led 2-0 shortly after half-time thanks to goals from Oleg Zoteev and Fozil Musaev.

But the UAE responded in a four-minute spell just before the hour mark as 2008 AFC Youth Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil struck a devastating double before substitute Saleh Haboosh netted a breakaway winner in stoppage time.

The UAE's coach Mahdi Ali was delighted with the comeback win. "I'm really proud of this achievement — it is the wish of every Emirati to reach London, especially as this is the first time for us," he was quoted by Gulf News.

"This game was for history and these guys, this team, the staff, administrators and federation. This was to write history for the UAE and I'm really, really happy and proud of that."

With Korea already assured of a trip to London from Group A, Japan secured a fifth consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games with a 2-0 win over Bahrain in Tokyo.

Needing just a point to seal qualification from Group C ahead of Syria and Bahrain, Takahiro Ogihara and Hiroshi Kiyotake scored in the second half at the National Stadium as Japan posted a fifth win of the campaign.

And with Japan ending Bahrain’s three-match win streak, Syria secured their place in this month’s three-way play-off in Vietnam after beating Malaysia 3-0 in Jordan.

Mardek Mardkian scored twice in a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half at Amman’s King Abdullah International Stadium to take his tally to four goals in five games in the Group Stage before substitute Omar Al Suma sealed the win with 10 minutes remaining.

With Korea already assured of the sole qualification spot from Group A heading into the final round of fixtures, Oman grabbed the place in the play-offs after sharing a 1-1 draw with Saudi Arabia.

Knowing a win would guarantee a play-off berth regardless of the result in Seoul, Hussain Al Hadhri handed Oman the lead with his seventh goal of the qualifying campaign two minutes before half-time at Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Stadium in Dammam.

Fahd Al Muwallad equalised for Saudi Arabia nine minutes into the second half, but the result provided academic as Qatar failed to claim the three points needed after sharing a goalless draw with Korea.

Elsewhere, Australia and Iraq shared a goalless draw in Gosford as the Olyroos finished at the bottom of Group B with just four points after failing to score a goal in their six games.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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