Bank of Beirut, Nafit Al Wasat out to end on a high
Yogyakarta: Having suffered the heartbreak of losing in the AFC Futsal Club Championship Indonesia 2018 semi-finals, Nafit Al Wasat head coach Haitam Abbas Bawei is aiming to bounce back in the third-place playoff against Lebanon’s Bank of Beirut on Sunday.
With majority of their players representing national teams, the match promises to be an explosive encounter as the two sides have met before in the quarter-finals of the 2015 edition in Isfahan with Iraqi side Nafit edging their opponents 3-2 on penalties after a 4-4 deadlock.
Most recently, Iraq came out tops in the 2018 AFC Futsal Championship quarter-finals in Chinese Taipei to win the tie 9-8 following a gruelling 20- penalty shootout after the match ended 2-2.
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“At the start of the competition our plan was to make the final, like we did in 2015. But luck was not on our side and now we have to prepare ourselves for the next match against Bank of Beirut,” said Bawei.
Nafit Al Wasat progressed into the Knockout Stage as Group B winners following wins against Thai Son Nam (4-3) and Korea Republic’s Jeonju MAG (6-1). The Iraq club’s only blip came in the 1-1 draw against United Arab Emirates’ Al Dhafra in their opener.
In the quarter-finals, Nafit needed extra time to overcame Vamos FC 7-4 after a spirited fightback saw the home side take a 3-2 lead in the second half but Nafit dug deep to equalise in the final minute after conceding two goals to force extra time following a 4-4 deadlock at the end of regulation time.
“We have to forget about our last match against Mes Sungun. Now our main focus is the third and fourth placing. We have come this far and on Sunday, we are confident of finishing third.”
Mustafa Bachay Hamzah echoed his coach’s sentiments and added that Nafif will be at their best against the Lebanese club on Sunday.
“This tournament is very important to us and our players are strong, we will do our best and hopefully beat our opponents,” said Hamzah.
Beirut have bettered their previous best of reaching the quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017. The Lebanese club were impressive in the group stage where they finished second behind Mes Sungun Varzaghan.
In the quarter-finals, Beirut beat defending champions Bluewave Chonburi on Wednesday, edging them 3-2 on penalties following a 7-7 stalemate and head coach Dejan Dedovic is confident of claiming third place.
“We are still reeling from our semi-final loss against Thai Son Nam and now we will face Nafit in the third and fourth placing. Our target now is to finish third in the championship,” said Dedovic.
“We know the Iraqis very well, so there will be no surprises when we play them on Sunday. We played them many times before and we are familiar with their style of play and I hope we come out on top.”
Mouhammad Hammoud is confident of Beirut’s chances against Nafit and claims his team will come back stronger next year.
“We have a match against Nafit and hopefully we can take third position and come back next year and win the championship,” said Hammoud.
Did you know?
Nafit Al Wasat’s only appearance in a third-place playoff was against Vietnam’s Thai Son Nam in the 2015 edition at Isfahan. Nafit lost 7-3.
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